Thursday, December 12, 2013

EDUCATION: Game Show Buzzers!

One of the most challenging parts of playing games with groups of kids is determining who raises their hand first when answering questions during the game. The answer to that is in using game show buzzers and I've found some that are very fun. Try using them for confirmation, Sunday School, or youth activities!
Check these out!

Honking Horn, Boxing Bell, Doorbell, and Boing! at ABC & Toy Zone or Trainer's Warehouse- (4 for about $20)
Lights and Sounds:  Laser, Buzz, Charge!, and Siren at Trainer's Warehouse - (4 for about $25) These also light up!
Cow, Rooster, Horse, Dog at Trainer's Warehouse - (4 for about $20)

You can also get them all at Amazon.com for about the same prices. 

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

EDUCATION: Questions, Questions, Questions

One of the most important things educators do is ask questions. Students don't ask bad questions but believe it or not, teachers do. There actually are good questions and bad questions. Bad questions usually have a 'yes' or 'no' answer, have an obvious answer, have the answer within the question, or make students (adults included) guess. Good questions elicit information, shape understanding, or press for reflection. The more good questions you ask the more you make people think and that is the goal of increasing faith. The more you think about it the deeper it becomes. If you need examples of good or different types of questions see my CONFIRMATION RESOURCES page. There is a sample there that can be downloaded.

Here are a few creative questioning suggestions:

  • Have a huge jar and whenever you think of a good thought provoking question put it inside the jar. Whenever you have a few minutes left in class go to the question jar and pull one out to challenge your students. If you add questions from the past (or put them back in the jar) it can be a great way to do a confirmation review.
  • Separate questions into 6 topics and have a small bucket or jar for each topic. Have students roll a die to see which topic they will choose and let them pick a question out of the bucket.
  • Try the idea above but don't use the buckets. The teacher/facilitator can  simply have a list of questions, students can roll the die to get their topic and the teacher can read the question.
  • Ball pit. I recently heard of an idea where you have a big pit (or bucket or trash can) of plastic balls with a question taped to each ball. A student then reaches into the pit and pulls out a ball. That question can be answered by him/her, by a group of students, or s/he can toss it to a person they choose. (Make sure everyone has the opportunity to answer.  
  • Write the questions on colored (or color coded for different topics or categories) index cards and give students the opportunity to "pick a card - any card" and answer the question. Try and add a few wild cards that will give them the chance to pass a question to another person or group or to choose again. If they pick one of those cards they can either use it then or save it for later. 
Remember that if you aren't comfortable putting one student on the spot you can always have them work in pairs or small teams to choose and answer questions.

Saturday, November 23, 2013

PARENTS: Artificial Maturity? Artificial Faith?

Artificial Maturity
I've watched kids change over the past 25 years but kids are a product of parenting and today parents do far too much for their kids. Grades can be changed when parents complain and blame the teachers. It's getting more and more difficult to find kids who know what it means to fail and if you can't fail you don't experience real success. In the book Artificial Maturity and in many others he's written on generation iY Tim Elmore talks about what's going wrong with kids and here's an article that summarizes his position very well, Are We Raising a Generation of Helpless Kids?  From what I've seen in education in the past 15 or so years he is spot on. The answer is really quite simple. From day one you have to let your children fall down. "That's so mean! Why would I do that?" So that they can pick themselves up again. So that they learn that they can pick themselves up again. So that they know that falling down is not the end of the world.

Artificial Faith
It would appear we may be doing the same thing in the church. We're so concerned that kids will not have faith that we do everything we can to have faith for them or try to convince them that it's beneficial by making it always upbeat and fun and hoping that if they feel good about it that they will keep it. We have a generation (or more) of kids who are now conditioned to expect instant gratification and there is nothing about faith that is instant except the moment when we receive it at baptism. I've recently had the following insights about messages we may be sending:
  • Jesus is AMAZING and AWESOME! Faith moves mountains and with Jesus anything is possible. Yes, but the ways of God are not the ways of man and we seem to expect Him to adjust the world or our lives in order for us to be successful and happy in this world.
  • Parents keep telling kids they are special, we tell kids they are special, we tell kids God thinks they are special enough for Jesus to die for all the bad things they've done. Yes, but being special to God is not about being treated special and repentance is not about saying we're sorry so we don't have to be grounded anymore.  
  • God has a plan for our lives. Yes, but we often confuse God's plan and our goals. The point is not to find His plan or His will. The point is to trust that He is in charge and live according to His Word and do our best to see Him in every circumstance life brings in whatever job we choose.
  • Trusting God makes our lives run more smoothly. Yes, but it doesn't mean we won't have any problems or don't have to deal with anything or resolve our own problems. God is not a puppet master who will make everything in our lives easy.
  • Kids get everything they want when they want it and expect God to respond instantly. Again, God's time is not our time. His ways are not our ways. His NO is more often His WAIT but we've taught kids that they don't have to wait for anything and when they do they lose interest.
  • God wants us to be happy. Yes, but God's goal is that we trust Him, do His work in the world, love people as Jesus did, and live authentic Christian lives until we can be with Him for eternity. Our happiness should come from following Him, not attaining success or status in the world.
  • Real faith brings happiness. Yes, but we need to stop doing everything we can to help kids feel their faith. I thank God every day as I run through about 500 different emotions that my faith is not about how I feel. We need to live our faith outside of our feelings to show them the truth of what it is.

In the same way that kids develop maturity by struggling with life, they develop faith by learning more about God while struggling with life. We pray, educate, and trust that their faith is strengthened and that they will turn to God on their own as they struggle to make life choices. We do it so that they learn that when they make mistakes, when life isn't fun and exciting or going well that they know God is with them.

You see, in spite of all those comforting messages we think we're sending, kids still feel alone, their grades aren't getting better, their family is still a mess, their dad still hits them when he's drunk, kids still pick on them at school, single moms still leave them home alone for too long, they may not have much food for dinner every night... life is hard. When that happens those messages ring hollow. The more we attach faith to feelings the less we can blame kids for not continuing to attend church after they graduate from high school. Life is a lot longer as an adult than a teenager. No more artificial faith!

To learn more about Tim Elmore and his non-profit leadership building foundation check out Growing Leaders Foundation.

Sunday, November 17, 2013

CHRISTMAS: Christmas Story Character Masks!

nativity-masks
Oriental Trading
This is a great and simple idea to help the little kidlets retell the Christmas Story! I found these great masks on Oriental Trading. A great way to use them would be to tell the story using pictures, then let the kids color the masks and tell the story back to you using their very own masks. If you have more kids then get a second set and have them color them differently to have more shepherds, animals, etc. How fun for the kids! They cost $4.99 for a set of 12.

They can also be used along with the other Bible character masks to tell other Bible stories.

Saturday, November 16, 2013

LEADERSHIP: Effective Use of Social Media

I posted previously about using social media in churches and having a designated volunteer to organize, post, and keep track of how the congregation utilizes social media to relate information and events to and interact with the general public and regular members. Social media can be a powerful tool but keeping up with it can be very time consuming. One way to manage all all of this is by using a website call Hootsuite, a social media management website that will allow you to schedule postings to Facebook, LinkedIn, Google+, and Twitter. Imagine being able to create all your postings once a month!

It seems as if everyone is on Facebook. Many congregations have pages that members can LIKE and pastors post items like titles of sermons or Bible studies, etc. Here are a few other ideas:
  • Post regularly (via Hootsuite if necessary). As mentioned earlier this will help you manage your time, organize, and schedule your postings. 
  • If you have one volunteer to organize social media postings have a specific mailbox and let people know which days postings or scheduling of postings occur.
  • Choose specific people as Facebook "admins" who can post events and information on behalf of the church.
  • Post items such as: upcoming Bible studies, scripture, prayers for specific needs, and/or shout-outs for groups who organized/hosted events or programs (not individuals or somebody will get upset that they were inadvertently excluded) and don't forget posting appropriate photos.
  • Ask for people to post prayer requests every week. (They can respond to a post/request by an admin.)
  • Choose specific people to check the page regularly for important member postings or messages.

Friday, November 15, 2013

CONFIRMATION: Learning & Remembering Confirmation/Bible Terms

Ever play CHARADES? You remember... it's the game where you have to act out different people or titles of movies, books, etc. Ever play VERBAL CHARADES? Instead of acting out whatever is on the card or slip of paper you have to describe it verbally without using any gestures. It's a great way to find out if kids actually know the meaning of terms or can describe people, places, or things while they have fun and you listen to hear what they know. It's a lot of fun and the kids will love it.

Here are the rules of play:
Everybody sits in one group with a large bucket or bowl of terms. Each person takes a turn and gets 2 minutes to verbally describe as many terms as they can while their team guesses what it is based on their description. When their time runs out the bowl is passed on to a player on another team. The team that gets the most terms after a specified number of rounds wins. Members of other teams listening in keep everything honest. There is NO PASSING. Do the best you can. You cannot spell the word or use a variation of the word to describe it.
Here are some suggestions:
  • Have a specified time limit so you don't spend all your time on this.  I would give them 15-20 minutes max.
  • Have a long list of terms so you don't run out. I've created a list to get you started but you can add plenty of your own depending on what you're studying at the moment. 
  • Add all kinds of terms, people, places, and things. Be sure to include some easy ones.
  • Teams of 3 or 4 are ideal.  If your teams get too big some kids will not participate because others on that team will overshadow them.  
  • If you have a really small class so that you have only 1 team you can still play but then tell them that if they get so many terms they can win a group prize... food works well!

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

CHRISTMAS: More Chrismon* Ornaments!

I've posted on Chrismons before because I love the idea of a Christmas tree full of Christian symbols instead of just plain glass balls or cute ornaments. Check that post out here. I found some more great resources online that I thought I should share.

Christian Ornaments - Some great Christian symbols and pictures of what they made. I love their templates!!
Why Christmas - Some nice Christian symbols.
Christian Symbols Unlimited - A bunch of Christian symbols that can be purchased both painted or unpainted.

If it's the first year you're adding Chrismons to the tree in your sanctuary why not have a little ceremony where the children get up and tell the congregation about each symbol? It's educational and celebratory!

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

HS YOUTH: Teen Challenge

Adults are always talking about what kids are missing "these days" and I'm one of them. It seems everything moves so fast for them and their lives are so scheduled with activities that they don't really have time to pause, reconnect, and reflect. So I came up with the Teen Challenge which is a list of things to encourage teenagers to take the time to do. At the beginning of the week, give them the list, have them pick one or two for the week and touch base with how they think or feel or what has changed in them at the end of the week.

I'm sure you'll come up with a few of your own but here are a few I suggest. Challenge them to:
  • Read a chapter of the Bible every day for a month. 
  • Write a letter (not an email and not a text or phone call) to your grandparents. 
  • Lay on the ground (on your back) with a few friends for at least 15 minutes and look at the sky and just think and talk; not about people but about life, God, and faith.  If it's too cold outside lay on the floor in the church sanctuary and feel God around you.
  • Sit with somebody you don't know during lunch at school.
  • Ask a parent or grandparent to tell you a story of when they were a kid.
  • Disconnect from technology for an hour every day and use that time to connect with family members.
  • Write your prayers down for a week.
  • Tell your teachers or other adults in your life that you appreciate them. Watch their eyes light up!
  • Notice an older person in your congregation and strike up a conversation with them.
  • Choose an old hymn to sing to yourself or listen to every day for a week.
  • Choose a Bible verse as your theme verse for a week. Say it out loud every morning.  
  • Stop.  Look.  Listen. Notice what other students are saying and doing in one of your classes. Is there somebody to whom you can be a blessing?
Kids these days are over-scheduled. Encourage them to pause, reconnect, and reflect.

Monday, October 28, 2013

ALL SAINTS: Surrounded by Saints!

My cousin's little saint Lorna who
now plays with Jesus all day!
It's a little too late for this year but I just remembered that at a church I went to a few years ago we all brought photos of family members and put them all around the sanctuary along with photos of church leaders like Luther and his reformation colleagues.  We had candles in the windowsills and either taped photos on the windows or set them on the sills as well.  It was so cool to be in worship surrounded by all our family members.

At one point in the service we also had an opportunity to say their names out loud.  The pastor paused and took a few moments for us to say the names of as many as we could remember.

It was incredible!


Monday, October 14, 2013

CONFIRMATION: Martin Luther Webquest

In preparing for a presentation on technology and education I created a sample web quest. For those of you who aren't familiar with web quests, they are web based projects for students. Mine is on Martin Luther and the reformation is for middle school students in confirmation and can also be used by any parochial school teacher for students at that level or maybe in high school with simple adaptations that would create a deeper level of thinking.

I used the Google webquest template which made it super easy to create as long as I had all my information organized and knew what my goals and tasks would be. All my worksheets, charts, and/or organizers were saved on my Google Drive for easy access. It's a great way for kids to learn independently. Check it out, use it if you'd like or take the plunge and create your own!

Sunday, October 6, 2013

CHRISTMAS: Children's Lantern Procession

Glass jar lanterns
Image from henryhappened.com
This is one of my favorite ideas! Ever try a Christmas Children's Lantern Procession? It would be so cool for a Christmas Eve service! The kids would need to get together to create their lanterns and could take them home afterward. I suggest you not use actual candles as that may be asking for trouble. If moms want to use them at home then I'd let that be their choice but kids walking through the congregation with open flames... maybe not... even in jars. The cutest and easiest examples I found were on henryhappened.com.

Supplies:
  • Small Glass Jars - remember that heavy jars may be hard to carry. (Baby food jars?)
  • Strong Twine or Fine Wire - to make the handle tightly wrap the twine around the lip and leave a nice loop.
  • Glow Sticks or Electric Tea Lights or Candles (Do you dare?)
  • Tissue Paper & Glue or Modge Podge - can give it a great stained glass look.
Other options and things that can also be used to decorate the jar:
  • Sheets of Vellum - color on them with Sharpies and slip them inside around the edges of the  jar.
  • Colored Sharpie Markers - can be used to color vellum or even right on the glass.  If you want them to color on the glass you can make it more permanent by putting them in the over for about 30 min.
  • Aluminum Foil - to make small silver stars to attach to the outside.
  • Ribbon - to tie around the lip.
  • Doilies - can be colored, cut and glued strategically to look like lace.
  • Black paper can be used to create a silhouette of a manger or an angel.
Just imagine all the little kidlets carrying their lanterns as they process in with the choir.  They could walk all the way in and out with their lanterns or there could be a special place where they put them up front as amazing creative decorations. They'll look like a bunch of twinkling stars if displayed creatively.

Saturday, October 5, 2013

HS YOUTH: Advent Meditation Through Art & Music

One of the things teenagers don't do a lot is take time to pause and meditate.  Why not take the time to set something up for Advent? Take a Wednesday night or have an event before Christmas where they can come to church and meditate while watching a bunch of slides of paintings of the Bible and Jesus with music playing in the background. The music can be contemporary but should be contemplative as the goal is to give them time to relax and focus on God and not themselves. Be careful of the contemporary music you choose, some of it may have a nice message but is not Biblical and some is focused on how we feel and not what God has done. If you need some help find contemporary songs try this website. You can also try some instrumental versions of hymns if you don't find any recorded hymns that fit the mood.

Provide scriptural quotes and a few questions to help them focus as they meditate.  If you need somewhere to start, I've created a brief meditational experience you can borrow or use to create your own.

There are SO many great songs out there for this time of year but here are a few suggestions that fit with what I wrote:

  • O Come, O Come Emmanuel
  • Come, Lord Jesus (Great is the Darkness) - Noel Richards
  • From the Depths of Woe I Cry to Thee
  • Do I Trust You Lord? - Twila Paris
  • God of Mercy, God of Grace
  • Joseph's Song - Michael Card
  • O Little Town of Bethlehem
  • Mary's Song (Breath of Heaven) - Amy Grant
  • Mary Did You Know? - Kathy Mattea
  • Angels We Have Heard on High
  • We Three Kings
  • Peace Shall Come - Hayley Westenra
  • Silent Night


Friday, October 4, 2013

REFORMATION: Society Then and Now

I found this great information regarding the Renaissance and the Reformation from HistoryGuide.com that was very enlightening as the more I read it the more I saw that it remarkably parallels society today.  I think it would make for some great discussion as we get closer to Reformation Day.

Renaissance and the Reformation
Humanists and artists made it an age of individualism and self-creativity making society very secularized.
Europeans were very focused on materialism.
1543 is said to be the origin of the scientific revolution and would end with Newton at the end of the 17th century.  (Internet and the Technological Revolution)
The printing press made it possible to disseminate ideas (create books) more cheaply than ever before.  (Blogs)
Many people found the church’s emphasis on tradition and ritualism unhelpful in their quest for personal salvation.
The church leadership was said to have lost its spiritual influence over its people.
There was a general tendency toward anti-church with a distrust and dislike of the clergy.
One group believed it was time to do away with organized religion and another believed it was time for reform.
The church was considered too formal and boring and the people sought a more personal and spiritual religion; something that would touch their hearts.
The people wanted a guarantee that they were doing the right thing to be saved.
The traditions and rituals of the church began to mean little to the people.
The church gave little thought to reforming itself.
Mystics became more popular claiming they had been illuminated and found the “key” to salvation.   
Commerce and trade was so good that people felt life here and now was something good to the point that there was no real need for God.
The church was challenged by an increasing awareness of ethnicity and nationalism with events such as Joan of Arc and the 100 Years War.  (Immigration)
Merchants and skilled workers living in cities were growing wealthy and influential with growing materialism.  (Lobbyists)
European kings were more interested in power than nobility.  (Politicians)

REFORMATION: Repost - Crocktoberfest

Many Lutheran congregations, as they have a German heritage, host or participate in an Oktoberfest of some kind during the fall.  As we also love potluck suppers I came up with what I call Crocktoberfest! It's a great way to get people together and these days you can find recipes for almost anything from soup to cake and all people have to do is unplug the crock pot and bring whatever is in it to church.  Make sure you have plenty of outlets!


Tuesday, October 1, 2013

ADVENT: Christkindl Market

This is one of the coolest ideas I've seen for Advent! It's right up there with the Nativity on Parade idea I posted last year. Christkindlesmarkt is something that happens every year in Nuremberg, Germany and I think it would be fantastic to do a version of it at every church.

There are many ways a congregation could enjoy their own Christkindlesmarkt. Try one of these:

  • Fundraiser where the ladies groups (or the whole congregation) raise funds for a charity by selling...
    • Baked Goods
    • Christmas Ornaments and Decorations
  • Community celebration to invite families and the whole neighborhood into the church where there are stations where they can:
    • Make traditional Christmas crafts and ornaments.
    • Make and/or taste traditional Christmas foods.
    • Meet the magi and the shepherds and enter the stable as they hear the story of Christmas.
    • Learn about German (or your heritage) Christmas traditions.
    • Have times throughout where live entertainment is shared through children singing songs or doing a short Christmas pageant, small adult groups could perform, story telling, etc.
    • Have a photo booth where families and/or friends can dress up in Christmas costumes such as shepherds and angels. If you're creative about the background you'll get some fabulous photos.
I LOVE this idea! It can be a great educational and fun experience. If anybody tries it please let me know how it goes!

Sunday, September 15, 2013

ADVENT: Follow that Star!

German Christmas Stars of Folded Paper - LoveToKnow: Advice you
German Paper Christmas Stars
http://alenapatter.net/folded-paper-star-pattern/
I've always wanted to spend an Advent focused on the star and the journey of the Magi. We don't talk much about them but really they are pretty cool guys. First, they were studying for years about this phenomena and all they could do was wait. Second, they had to have faith to even consider a journey the breadth of which they were going to undertake, and third, once they were there looking at the holy child, they knew the world had changed. They knew and returned home a different way. They knew. What a life changing journey because of their interest in the stars.

Why not break the 3 Wednesdays of Advent into 3 nights of stars and The Journey of the Magi.

It doesn't have to be a big deal but you could include a time of Prayer and Prepare, make and take a star ornament, and then supper and worship. There are a variety of ways this can be done:

  • Include it or a variation of it in your midweek program.
  • Add it to your Advent supper by having it start a little early so people can participate.
  • Start a new tradition for Advent!

I considered breaking down the story or idea into these themes:  
  • Preparing for the Star - The Magi studied and prepared before they started their journey. Are we wrapped up in the glitz and glamour of the season or are we preparing?
  • Faith in the Promise of the Star - Anticipation and building excitement. Do we trust in the promise outside of the feelings of excitement?
  • Journey to the Star - We all are on a journey to the star. We prepare, we trust, and we go. Are we going?
You might even want to take it all the way through Christmas Eve or Christmas Day as the star did not stop shining when Jesus was born.  The Magi weren't there yet. They didn't arrive until later. 

Star ornaments can be found everywhere online but if you want to see my little collection check my Christmas Craft Pinterest Board. You can also find paper mache stars to decorate at Hobby Lobby or wooden stars to decorate at Factory Direct Craft.

Saturday, September 7, 2013

Thanking God for 10,000+ Page Views!!!

It all started when....

... a Director of Christian Education/licensed teacher working full-time at a public school suddenly decided to write her graduate capstone paper on confirmation instead of math. (Yes, I know what you're thinking.) The paper became somewhat of a handbook to help pastors understand the kids they teach and the process of educating; something inexplicably missing in the seminary curriculum. Then it grew to education within the church as a whole and I just kept saying to myself, "We can and should do this better! With everything we know about education and learning these days somebody needs to do something about it." Somehow that somebody became me. Be careful when you ask God to use the gifts He's give you. He'll do so in ways you never expected!

I am so thankful to God for giving me both the gifts that He has and the ability and desire to share them. When I started this little blog I thought maybe 5 of my close friends might stumble upon it once in a while but here we are a little over a year later and it's over 10,000 page views!?!? THANKS BE TO GOD and may we all be better educators of the most important information we can possibly share!  

Thursday, September 5, 2013

EDUCATION: Sunday School in a Multi-age Classroom

You would be quite surprised at how many churches have multi-age Sunday School classrooms. I once visited one where there were two first graders, two third graders, and a fifth grader. Wow!  When asked to help them out I did a little research and put my thinking cap on and came up with some tips for teaching multi-age Sunday School classes.

  • Ensure that the lesson plan is interactive: Use varied instructional strategies:  lots of visuals, movement, hands–on activities, videos, role playing, listening cues for Bible passages, picture books, music, etc. 
  • Factor in attention spans: Studies indicate that a child’s attention span is generally one minute longer than their age.  A six year old might be able to focus for seven minutes.  Plan accordingly.  Provide a teacher directed activity then a child-directed activity and repeat. 
  • Provide structure they can count on: Younger children especially thrive on routines.  Build them in to every lesson.  Utilize activities such as an opening prayer, an ice breaker, a Bible lesson, game, art project, and prayer.  Be consistent, but allow for creativity within the structure. 
  • Utilize the older child in a leadership role: Allowing the older students to help builds responsibility, character, and maturity.  Invite them to distribute supplies.  Use their specific individual gifts to help teach.  Have students read passages or picture books if they are confident readers.  Have older students provide music accompaniment in worship or create artwork as a visual for your lesson. 
  • Pair up different age students for craft projects.  Many times we do not attempt complex crafts with younger children because there are not enough adult helpers.  In a multi-level classroom you have an advantage, which age-separated children’s ministries do not; you can utilize the “big buddy” to assist their “little buddy” in completing the craft.  They can work on the craft together! 
  • Be sure to ask questions for the kids at every age level. Asking questions is crucial to deepening understanding. Make sure you hit the appropriate level for students at each age. Students will become very bored if you don't challenge them at their own level. 
  • Be sure to have them all pray out loud together. The younger kids will have a great influence on the older ones and their confidence in praying out loud. I know... you thought I'd state that the other way around but as kids get older they become less and less comfortable praying out loud. Use the opportunity to keep them young in that way!

Enjoy your multi-age classroom and watch them as they interact and teach each other about both the Bible and the love God has instilled in their beautiful hearts.

Saturday, August 31, 2013

EDUCATION: Maps and more maps!

I wish I knew the regions in which the events of the Bible took place better. I have no picture in my head of where people lived, traveled, etc. and I think it would make it more real for me.

Just showing a map for a few moments does not create a memory of it. The only way to make these areas real to kids is to give them enough interaction with maps that they can create pictures of the areas in their minds. The easiest way to have the kids interact with them is to give them blank maps, let them label and color appropriate areas (tell them which colors to use where or you'll get some crazy looking maps).  To assess them project the blank map on whiteboard and let the kids use white board markers to label it.  They love writing on the white board!  The key then is to make sure they have to look at them over and over again so you'll need to refer to them as you teach.  When you talk about events happening in the Bible be SURE to have them grab their map to see where the event is taking place.

CBMS-01 - Complete Bible Map System CD-Rom
Scripture Truth Book Co.
Another option is to have them complete their map and then put it in a page protector/plastic sleeve. Those can be written on and erased over and over again with overhead markers or white board markers. (FYI - It is more difficult to erase white board markets on non-glare page protectors.) When you discuss a new area or city have the kids take their map out and write the event on the map next to the city name.

Try these resources for maps.  I tried to find some blank ones but I couldn't find any so you might have to print one and use a bottle of White-Out on it.



Friday, August 23, 2013

YOUTH: Digital Citizenship - Talk about it!

It's time we start talking about digital citizenship and how kids use the internet and social media more in church, not so that our kids become good citizens with regard to how they use technology and social media but so that they become savvy thinkers of what it actually is and how it can drastically affect their lives and the lives of others and so that they realize that evil online is still evil.  The key to all of this is PARENTAL INVOLVEMENT. Parents must be encouraged to start paying attention to how kids use their computers and their cell phones.

These days kids use social media as if they're talking to a friend when in reality they're talking to a friend and 500 to 1000 people they probably don't know very well and who don't really care about them. Kids will also share inappropriate information and personal feelings online. To help with this educational process I created a few posters that might help. They can be posted in classrooms and youth rooms if you have them printed at Short Run Posters where you can have posters printed for about $3 each.



The posters I've created are for:

Don't fall into the trap of believing that kids these days are smarter about technology just because they were born in the digital age. It doesn't matter in what year we were born; we all start out knowing nothing. They're no smarter than what they've been taught! 




Saturday, August 17, 2013

EDUCATION: Custom Posters Provide Unity

One I designed for Camp Omega.
Did you know you can make your own posters (18"x 24") for about $3 each at SHORT RUN POSTERS? Why would we want to do that? You might be asking. Well, as a teacher in a school I like to make my own posters because I want them to send specific messages and my classroom rules (all 3 of them) are always posted professionally. But there are many ways Lutheran schools or churches might want to use them.

Lutheran Schools
  • Posting the school mission statement all around the school.
  • School rules consistently posted in every classroom.
  • Annual Biblical themes.  Every Sunday School and school should have a theme verse students memorize.
  • Fundraising. Create posters of events students can collect or allow them to purchase the theme verse posters each year.
SAMPLE
Churches
  • Annual Biblical themes in each Sunday School classroom (including adult classrooms).
  • Fundraising. Youth groups can design one that has photos or original art and prayers or Bible verses on it that kids can hang in their bedrooms.
  • Create one for the rules of using the church kitchen.
  • Annual Events. They can be created new every year or re-used from year to year.

Though there are many design programs I use PowerPoint and save them as a PDF or JPEG to upload them. Before you start designing either set your page size to 18" x 24" or set it proportionally to that. I recommend sending all the designs in at one time or the shipping may cost more than the posters.

If you like the idea but get stuck in the process feel free to drop me an email.

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

ADULTS: Bible Study and Making Connections

People keep asking me how to keep kids involved after confirmation; how to keep kids involved after the youth group; how to get adults involved. I am just one small girl (ok, I'm actually tall) with a humble opinion but I think the problem begins with the adults and trickles down to the kids, not the other way around. So the question becomes what are you doing for adults? Which begs the question, what do adults need from a church? Let's think about adults. Within every congregation there are:
  • Newly married couples.
  • Married couples with children.
  • Married couples without children.
  • Single parents, male and female.
  • Younger singles.
  • Older singles.
What are their common needs? They need Bible study and they all need personal connections. Work is comfortable because we make friends there. Church needs to be the same way. How do we help make this happen? What opportunities do we provide? First we pray about it, then we make an honest appraisal of how we do things and maybe make a few changes.

Bible Study
Be sure it's relevant, interesting, and challenges their beliefs. It's when we're challenged and have to defend what we believe that it becomes concrete. If you need a reminder regarding teaching adults look at my previous postings, one called It's Not What You Teach - It's How You Teach and another one with tips on teaching adults called A Sage on the Stage.

Personal Connections
Most adults, whether male or female, married or not, are starving for real personal connections. The challenge in churches is that people don't ever seem to want to be vulnerable enough to let people see them. We're all trying to be ok, show how our families are always great, and that we never have any real problems. Most relationships start when people get together to do something so they can learn to trust and become vulnerable. You can either try tons of new ideas for men's ministry and women's ministry with suitable activities for each or you can do something really crazy and FIND OUT by simply asking them how they can best be served. 

The best idea would be to find ways to make your adult Bible study a place where adults can both learn and make personal connections. Sitting in a pew listening to the pastor talk and answer his own questions with a few comments by the brave will not cut it. 

Wednesday, August 7, 2013

RALLY SUNDAY: Keep it Simple but Effective

Rally Sunday is coming! It's not the beginning of the church year but it is the beginning of the education year in the church. There are 6 previous postings for Rally Sunday. You can use the categories on the right to check them out. They include ideas for a 100 Day Challenge, a few creative leadership ideas, introducing your carnival of ministries, and how to kick-off the year with random acts of kindness.

Rally Sunday is a day for the leadership of the church to rally the congregation. It's a unifying and focusing event when they are introduced to the educational game plan for the year and encouraged to participate. A LOT of churches turn Rally Sunday into quite a circus and I'm not really a fan of that but I am a fan of introducing people and programs of ministry in fun and creative ways. The key is in not focusing more on the power of entertainment than on the power of the Word. We want people to give their faith as much attention as they do their Facebook time, fishing trips, soccer team, work, Sunday brunches, or their math homework. Remember that when you involve the parents you involve the children. 

Here are a few simple ideas:
  • Include a breakfast potluck or picnic after or between services or at the very least have some special breakfast finger snacks for the kids.
  • Have people write some creative skits to introduce the leadership.
  • Remind the parents why they need Bible study as much as their children do.
  • Create a visual menu of some kind for the bulletin with descriptions of the classes and include why it's so important for people of all ages to remain rooted in the Word. 
  • Invite a puppet group to introduce Bible characters that will be studied by the children. 
  • Include some Sunday School songs in the worship.
  • Choose a theme for the year and create a banner that can hang in a prominent place throughout the year.
  • Commission EVERYONE in the congregation after you commission the teachers! It can be an affirmation of everyone's commitment to be a part of theirs and/or their children's Christian education. 
Rally Sunday - It's all about the value of Bible study! 


Friday, August 2, 2013

CONFIRMATION: Let's Talk Discipline

I was giving a presentation to a group of pastors and one asked, "My kids just don't behave while I'm listening to memory work. What can I do about that?" The response to this and many behavior problems is really quite simple. Give them something to do. Whenever you give middle school kids unstructured time they will fill it but let's be honest, they're not going to use it wisely. Give them something to do and expect it to be done by the time you've gotten through everyone. Never disrupt the whole class for one behavior challenged student. Any discipline required by you should only take a moment or two.

In my graduate paper, Confirmation: A View from a Professional Educator I have a section on classroom management. If you would be interested in reading it, please let me know. I've included a few brief suggestions below.

Classroom management suggestions:

  • Set expectations and keep them high. Don't EVER let them get away with disrespectful behavior. Ask them to step outside for a moment and call them on it, then tell them you'll give them a few minutes to pull themselves together and they can join the class when they can manage.
  • Be consistent. Have the same expectations and show them consistently to all students.
  • Keep them moving. Plan your class time. It keeps you from wasting what little valuable time you get with them and it keeps them out of trouble.
  • Transition after 15 minutes. The attention span of a middle school student is 10-12 minutes. You can tell when kids get bored and have stopped paying attention and it does neither you nor them any good to keep going down the same path when that happens.
  • Only get parents involved if the behavior continues to be a problem. You do not want to send the message that you can't handle these simple problems. Let the kids and parents know you'll be contacting them if this happens and be sure to let them know that s/he is missing valuable information and may not be confirmed. You don't have to confirm them! 
  • Students who are mean or disrespectful to other students should be expected to make it right.
  • Pull them out of class and ask them why they were asked to leave. Wait for an answer and if they don't give one tell them to think about it and you'll come back in a few minutes. They need to be able to name their inappropriate behavior.
  • Give a squirrely student a couple of warnings but no more than three and after that they may be required to write a couple (2) paragraphs of why they should be allowed to stay in class when they can't behave and/or what their plan is to do better. Do NOT stoop to why God wouldn't like their behavior. 
  • HOLD THEM ACCOUNTABLE. If they know you won't do anything they won't stop. Why should they?
Most importantly I want you all to know that it is YOUR JOB to hold them accountable. They need it and what you're teaching them is the most important thing they're learning in their lives at that moment. If you act like that is true they will believe it. If you don't, they will believe that too and it will show in both their work and their behavior. HOLD THEM ACCOUNTABLE!  


Wednesday, July 31, 2013

CONFIRMATION: Parents Helping with Confirmation

When I speak to pastors regarding the parent's role in confirmation they all say the parents don't participate enough. I have to wonder two things:  1) Do the parents realize how important they are in the process? 2) Do you let them know how they can help?

I have created a How Parents Can Help With Confirmation document in MSWord and in pdf (which seemed to save better) that you can use or modify to share. A number of pastors have begun having parents be an integral part of the teaching process in leading small groups and/or helping with classroom management.  There are pros and cons in both of these models.  With regard to classroom management I would say that having parents involved for that reason may alleviate some of the problems but it also sends a message to students that the pastor/teacher cannot handle the problems. I will talk about classroom management in a post in the near future. Below you can see the pros and cons of having parents directly involved in the education process.

Parents as a Part of the Teaching Experience
Pros
  • Parents know and understand the curriculum and get a refresher at the same time.
  • Parents have the opportunity to hear what their children think about what is being taught.
  • Parents have a greater understanding of what's required every week.
  • Parents take the confirmation journey with their children.

Cons
  • Sometimes parents overshadow the students in discussion.
  • Parents aren't always comfortable with the silence after a question is asked and answer for the students.
  • Middle school students will not freely discuss some issues with their parents or the parents of a friend in the room. 
  • Some parents push a little too hard for their kids to succeed and confirmation is not that kind of a class. These parents would do better to help at home. 
  • Pastors/teachers sometimes forget that the class is for the kids and speak more to the parents.
  • Having parents involved hinders the students from developing a personal relationship with the pastor/teacher.

Monday, July 29, 2013

WORSHIP: Brain Facts to Enhance Preaching Effectiveness

There are some brain related facts that can and should be applied to preaching. What is the purpose of preaching? One definition of sermon is "an often lengthy and tedious speech of reproof or exhortation." A much kinder definition is "an oration by a prophet or member of the clergy." Now, we all know that that's not what any pastor wants his sermon to be. So let me ask again:  What is the purpose of preaching? My guess is that it's going to have something to do with sharing the Word of God in a meaningful way. What do you want people to get out of each sermon? Once you know that you can consider how to get those points across to have the greatest impact on the congregation. These are things scientists know for sure about how our brains work. They will also help you develop appropriate slides to get those points to stick around a little longer.

Brain facts that will enhance your preaching effectiveness:

  • If you want people to remember something longer than 30 seconds you have to say it more than once.
  • It takes repeated exposure to something over long periods of time to make it a solid memory.
  • Memory and emotions have a great influence on what we consider boring and we don't pay attention to what we consider boring. Emotions make the brain pay attention.
  • Our senses work best together. For example, memory recall is higher when you combine hearing and seeing.
  • If you hear a piece of information you'll remember 10% of it 3 days later. If you add a picture you'll remember 65% of it.
  • You'll get 3 times better recall for visual information than for oral and 6 times better recall for information that's oral and visual simultaneously.
Ready, set, GO!

Brain information from Brain Rules by John Medina.




Thursday, July 25, 2013

HS YOUTH: Talk About Homosexuality

Most people about my age remember a time when homosexuality was something that wasn't spoken of in public. Kids these days, however, have quite a different experience. Teenagers today have grown up in a society where homosexual behavior is considered just another option... or more like a gay or lesbian person is just another variety of person. On top of that they don't read the Bible and have allowed other people to tell them what it says or means and/or many have been told that there are parts of the Bible that are no longer relevant. Considering their life experience, the world in which they've grown up, and the fact that they may have gay friends, the topic of homosexuality needs to be approached from a different perspective than just "it's wrong." It needs to be discussed within the context of all sexual sins and all sins as well as God's design for sexual/intimate relationships.  It also needs to be a discussion where the kids get to talk more than the adult(s). Let them struggle with it, provide them with information along the way and guide them to a conclusion.

Question Jar
One of the greatest tips I give when talking about a sensitive topic like this is to have time at the beginning of class for kids to write down questions anonymously to be put in a question jar. Put some questions you want to be sure to answer in first so nobody knows who wrote which question. The key is to make sure the kids feel completely comfortable so they actually ask the questions they want to ask so give the same size paper to everyone and have them fold them the same way and tell them that if it makes them more comfortable they can write down anything and just put it in the jar. They may say you'll know their handwriting but they shouldn't care as much that you know they wrote the question as they would about their peers knowing they wrote it.

I've created a basic Homosexuality Discussion Outline that has a number of questions you can use to help organize your discussion or at least get the ball rolling. It is only one way of discussing the issue but it is certainly an issue that should be discussed.

Key Thoughts on Popular Arguments
  • Marriage is a label not a behavior. God doesn't care what it's called or whether or not society agrees with it. He hates the behavior so having homosexuals be "married" is not the problem. Homosexual behavior is the problem.  Unrepented sin is the problem.
  • You can't expect people who don't know God to understand His plan.
  • The Bible is not a book about perfect people. It's a book about a perfect God saving His imperfect people so because people in the Bible sinned doesn't mean God is okay with it.
  • God CLEARLY shows us His plan for intimate relationships right at the beginning of the Bible.
  • Homosexuality is a sin like all other sexual sins and all other sins.  It's no different than watching people have sex in movies and on tv, having random sex with anybody anywhere, living together without being married, reading about sex in romance novels, looking at pornography in magazines or online, lying, cheating at school, stealing a pencil from a friend, speaking poorly of somebody, etc.
  • God IS love but that love is not about accepting our sinful behavior without repentance. He does NOT love that. There is a reason we do confession before absolution. 
  • You should not expect non-Christians to accept God's rules. They don't know God.


Wednesday, July 24, 2013

LEADERSHIP: Characteristics of Sheep

In the Bible there is much mention of livestock but sheep are used particularly to describe the people of God. The people were very familiar with sheep and their behavior which is probably one reason God uses them to describe us and why Jesus refers to us as sheep throughout the Gospels. Another reason would be because it is so accurate.

I've been reading the Old Testament again and a little bit ago I ran across some interesting information about sheep that cracked me up when I made the comparison of the behavior of the Israelites to sheep. It literally made me laugh out loud. I share this, if for no other reason, to give you a little chuckle, but as a professional educator I try to find out as much about my students as possible. The better I know my students, the better a teacher I can be. As a shepherd, the better you know your sheep, the better a shepherd you can be. We all, like sheep, have gone astray... (Isaiah 53)

Sheep...

  • need the most hands-on care of all livestock.
  • are gregarious animals. They are better kept in numbers as they are social.
  • have a strong sense of flocking which is primarily about fear of predators.
  • are passive and have little means of self-defense. 
  • become nervous and difficult to handle when feeling stress.
  • are gullible and often follow the crowd.
  • are creatures of habit. 
  • frequently look for easy places to rest.
  • don't like to be sheared or cleaned. 
  • are vulnerable to mob psychology and stampede easily.
  • are vulnerable to fear.  
  • are competitive and compete for dominance. 
  • have little discernment in choosing good food and water. 
  • are stubborn and insist on getting their own way. They will even eat poisonous plants and dirty water.
  • need a shepherd to lead them or they wander off and get lost.
  • trust their shepherd as their most calming influence.
  • need "rod and staff" guidance. They are not just used for protection but for guidance of wayward sheep. 
When I look at myself and my life in comparison to this list I can easily see why satan, the ever prowling wolf, so easily manipulates me and I can proudly sing, "I am Jesus' little lamb!"


WOW!

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

LEADERSHIP: Easy Event Planning Form

I was meeting with a pastor in my circuit last week and he explained that his small church was having a little confusion when people were having/hosting events in the church. The board of directors was concerned about liability and the communication with the church office was inconsistent so we sat down and hammered out an EVENT PLANNING form that I thought I might share. It is electronic and can be put on the church website or emailed and submitted to the church administrator electronically. It can also be printed and turned into a paper form if that's more convenient.  It's a simple Google Doc form and the details will be added to a spreadsheet which will keep track of all the congregational events. It will make a nice archive for recurring events.

IN CASE OF EMERGENCY
You never know when an emergency will strike so I recommend that everyone who is in charge of a group, board, or committee that would host an event should be given an IN CASE OF EMERGENCY information sheet which includes church contact information (name, address, phone number), evacuation map(s), information about where First Aid supplies (defibrillator) are kept, and the phone number of the people to contact for building and/or liability issues. If there are a number of entrances please have them listed in a way that they can be easily distinguished by emergency responders.

A packet containing this information should also be available outside the church office either attached to a bulletin board or in a simple folder holder.

Check it out!


Friday, July 12, 2013

EDUCATION: Use those Catechism Questions!

I LOVE the questions in Luther's Small Catechism! Whenever I get confused about what Lutherans believe and why I flop that little blue book open and look at the questions. It's amazing!

Far too many Lutherans don't really know what they believe. Why not? They were confirmed, weren't they? Sure... when they were 12! The only other stuff you remember from 8th grade are some of the friends you had, the girl/boy you fell in love with, the weird, mean, or beloved teacher, and the math. Things you had an strong emotional connection to and the math. You remember the math because you revisited it all through high school. In short, it was repeated for years. So, realistically, nobody should be expected to be able to answer those catechism questions unless they've been revisited in high school and regularly as adults. AND I've heard many people say one of the greatest problems Lutherans have in speaking to unbelievers is that they're not comfortable talking about what they believe. So, I'm telling everyone to use the catechism questions!

HOW? Any way you want or try one of these:

  • Pick a section and put the numbers of the questions on cards to be chosen at random at the beginning of adult and youth Bible study every week. Be sure to go over the Bible verses that support the answers.
  • Pick a number at the end of class every week for the next week and let everybody think about the answer all week. At the beginning of each class briefly go over them.
  • As you go over the Bible verses that support the answers assign one as memory work. Be sure to hold them accountable the next week to say it (and one from a previous week) together out loud.
  • Create an entire adult Bible study out of those questions but require the participants to look for the verses that support the answers given the book and chapter. Some of the questions will bring up good discussion. Don't lecture! Let them hash it out and guide them.
  • Create an online quiz with different questions each month for the church website. Once it's digital you can use it more than once! Give it a snappy name like Martin's Memoirs or Do You Know What Lutherans Believe? 
  • Have catechisms available for purchase for anybody who doesn't have one (not just the confirmands) and remind everyone what a cool and valuable book it is and why it's so cool. It's pretty much the Lutheran Handbook.
As an adult that book means far more to me than it did when I was in 8th grade. You can tell by the doodles...

Tuesday, July 9, 2013

LEADERSHIP: Team Building for a Small Staff

WAIT A MINUTE!! Isn't team building for businesses? Isn't team building for those big churches with a lot of staff members? Isn't team building stupid? The answer to all of these questions is a resounding NO!

A little team building experience can be great at bringing staff members together at the beginning of each year. Notice that I didn't say PAID staff members? In a small congregation the staff members include a number of volunteers. A while ago I wrote something for a Lutheran camp who wanted to start providing some team building experiences for professional church workers. I figure it's a good time to share that information with the rest of you.  

The goal of team building is to build a shared vision and/or mission and to give people a chance to bond as a team and plan for the year. 

Keys for building a successful team building experience:
  • Begin and end the experience in the Word and pray for each other, the day, and the congregation.
  • Let the team help choose the schedule and activities.
  • Let the team choose the goals for the experience.
  • Include age appropriate activities for building trust and a team attitude (simple physical team building games or if a camp is near and you have the budget to go off-site, try the high ropes and/or challenge course activities).
  • Include opportunities throughout the day for "real" work like annual or strategic planning.
  • Have the team complete an assessment about whether or not the goals were reached after the experience.
  • Don't forget: it never hurts to have a few Bible study goals for a leadership team as well!

Saturday, July 6, 2013

EDUCATION: Best Practices in Using Slides

Source: The NIV Quickview Bible
Whether in a Bible study, during a sermon, or throughout worship, slides are more and more commonly used. Everybody has their own opinion about how they should be used from projecting liturgy and song lyrics (personally I like to see the music) during the worship service to outlining a sermon or Bible study. The question on the minds of many church professionals is how should they be used most effectively? Sometimes it's because they haven't asked the first and most important question: What is the purpose of the slides? Using technology just because it's popular is foolish. Using technology because it enhances worship and education is highly beneficial. While this post is primarily for educational purposes, some of these tips will be helpful for sermons and worship as well.

Basic Slide Creation Tips
  • Eliminate extraneous slides. Nobody needs to read everything the presenter says or will say. Nobody needs to read everything the pastor says. Obviously, everybody needs to read what they should remember or write down.
  • Choose font type, size, and color wisely. The font needs to be legible from a distance so must be large enough for the size of the room and the color should not remotely match the background. Dark backgrounds need a light font color and light backgrounds need a dark font color. 
  • Use bullet points or short sentences. You don't need to show your every thought in complete sentences or paragraphs. Don't use too much text!
  • A picture is worth a thousand words. People learn or remember more easily if they have an emotional connection so illustrations or photos can be valuable. Diagrams, charts, graphs, maps, videos, etc. help describe complicated information. Be sure you label them!
  • Choose simple backgrounds. Complicated or animated backgrounds or backgrounds that change every few slides are distracting no matter how cool they may seem.
  • Include major points, highlights, and/or quotes. You're providing an outline of what you're presenting so including major points, highlights or quotes reinforces important details.
Basic Slide Presentation Tips
  • Don't read your slides. Everybody there can see them!
  • Pause for people to read the slides. People have a tendency to read what they see before they listen to what you say. If you don't pause they will miss what you're saying because they're busy reading.
  • Pause for people to write down what they need, especially if you use quotes. Let them know what isn't necessary for them to write down (especially for confirmation). If you don't pause they will miss what you're saying because they're busy writing it down.
  • Don't use repeated animation. It will totally distract from what you're saying. If you use photos or illustrations that are momentarily distracting be sure they enhance what you're saying and pause while people react to them.
  • Refer to diagrams, charts, graphs, and/or maps. All of these things provide support data.  If you're not going to refer to them then why are they there? If you need a good source for Bible maps try Free Bible maps or for something more interactive try BibleMap. A simple search for Bible maps in Google Images provides some fantastic resources. PreceptAustin has a number of public domain maps. Others seem free to use as long as the use is not online or commercial.
  • Videos and/or movie clips should be kept short. Remember that they should enhance your presentation, not take it over or become the presentation. 
Use technology wisely!

Wednesday, July 3, 2013

CONFIRMATION: What does this mean?

In the wonderful world of education, our main goals are to make sure students (any age) know any new information and have an understanding of it so that they can apply it in some way to gain deeper understanding. How we ask questions is imperative in making the connection from simply eliciting information to understanding and applying it. Unbeknownst to him, Martin Luther asked a pretty profound question in his Small Catechism with regard to education when he asked, "What does this mean?"

The problem is that when we teach out of the catechism we have kids read and memorize the answer without making them think about the question!  So... before you tell students to read and memorize ANY part of the catechism, ask them, "What does this mean?"

Give them a chance to talk to a friend or two about it and respond:
  • verbally.
  • written on a note card.
  • written on a white board.
Then assign the memory work.  That way they know what they're memorizing before they do it!

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

SERVICE: YouthWorks Mission Trips

They're not just for youth anymore. It's interesting... people of all ages really like servant event or mission trips much better than serving in their own neighborhoods. While we need to remember that service is not an event but an attitude, mission trips provide an opportunity to serve and adjust our perspective and relationship with Christ away from everyday life. Sometimes these kinds of trips can be life changing for people as they have a chance to witness other cultures, talk about their faith, do physical work, develop or strengthen personal relationships, take special time with God, etc. The problem is finding an appropriate place for your particular group.

If you're looking for a great company to work with for a servant event trip check out YouthWorks. I have a friend who has worked with the company and has only good things to say about it. Groups may go to small or large urban communities, small towns, American Indian reservations, or international sites in Canada or Puerto Rico. Servant events are not just for kids either. Think about sending:

  • A multi-generational group - gives people a chance to interact with people outside their peer group and hear stories of faith and life from people who aren't their family and friends.
  • A group of men - men need to take some time to be with other men and do hard physical work. Men bond doing work together and like to help people. It would give them a wonderful opportunity to get away and think about their life, their faith and their place in the world.
  • A group of women - women are naturally service oriented and enjoy hanging out together and talking while helping. Many may not enjoy hard physical work like the men but they can choose to work with people in other less physical areas.
  • A group of young adults - try one for kids home from college so relationships can be rebuilt or strengthened. It doesn't have to be long or far away to be meaningful and re-focus them back on God, their year, and where their faith is after a year at school as well as to strengthen them for the coming year away from their church home.
  • A group of married couples - what a great opportunity to bring couples together and strengthen marital relationships than through shared service and time to talk about their faith. 

There are options in all parts of the country with different types of people and different types of service. Check out the list of communities that can be served!

Monday, June 24, 2013

EDUCATION: Retelling Bible Story Techniques

Teachers use retelling techniques to help children with comprehension when reading. It helps them sequence the events and remember important details. The same technique will help them with Bible stories as well and will be instrumental in helping them understand law and gospel in each story. Remember that young kids don't need to be able to label what is law and gospel (they won't understand that concept anyway), they just need to be exposed to it. The teacher needs to understand it in each story and be able to let the kids know what Jesus does for us and why which is, in its simplest sense, law and gospel.

When helping kids learn about a Bible story have them read the story or tell it to them first. Then go through it again trying a different technique and having the kids help retell it.
  • Use puppets, props, masks, etc. and let the kids use them to help retell the story.
  • Retell the story leaving sections out for the kids to fill in verbally. 
  • Use "follow the yellow brick road" to help them tell the story step by step. Put pieces of yellow paper on the floor and have the kids tell the story while "walking" down the road.
  • Add body actions to the story so when kids retell, the actions will help them remember.
  • Pause while retelling to ask appropriate questions to reiterate important details and law/gospel.  
  • Let kids draw a picture while you tell the story and then use their picture to retell it.
  • Use a series of pictures to tell the story and let the kids retell it putting them in order. 

Remember, especially for young kids, a picture really is worth a thousand words!

Saturday, June 22, 2013

EDUCATION: Brain Rules on Memory


In graduate school I read the book Brain Rules by John Medina and in it he talks about the two types of memory:  short-term and long-term. It always amazes me that (just like the photo) I can remember the lyrics to songs from when I was in high school and the liturgy of The Lutheran Hymnal even after not saying it for years. Why is that? And why does everybody know John 3:16 so much better than any other Bible verse? It's because we hear it and say it more than any other verse.

In order to put something in our short-term memory we listen to it or say it 10 times in 10 minutes or just long enough for it to become a part of our short-term memory but in high school we listen to the same songs every day over the span of years which firmly sets them in our long-term memories. We said or hear the liturgy only once a week but it's part of our long-term memory because we've said it once a week for 15 years or so. I've heard people complain that it's terrible that kids learn the same Bible stories in Sunday School year after year but that's how they become fixed in our memories. The stories with which we aren't familiar are the ones we only heard once in a while; short-term memory.

According to Brain Rules, that's how memory works. So... in confirmation, Sunday School, or even worship, what's the best way to get scripture into long-term memory? It's repetition over time. The key being over time. That doesn't mean it should be repeated 25 times in 10 minutes.  It should be repeated 25 times over 10 days, 10 months, or 10 years. The longer it is repeated, the longer it will stay in long-term memory. We may think it's boring for kids but the brain works the way the brain works. There's no arguing with that.

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

ADULT EDUCATION: It's not what you teach - it's HOW you teach.

In doing research for smaller congregations I often have pastors ask for resources for adults. People aren't coming to adult Bible study. My answer is this:  It's not WHAT you teach - it's HOW you teach that keeps them away. Every book of the Bible is full of compelling topics and God's truth. The problem is that most church workers are not taught how to teach, how to ask significant questions, and how to facilitate a good discussion that leads to deeper understanding. Most church workers believe (without admitting it) that they need to bring profound teaching to the people or that they need to unravel the mysteries of the Bible. THIS IS NOT TRUE! The Bible was not written in code.

Unfortunately I can't teach people how to be better teachers in a blog.  I can only give tips. The first key to educating well is knowing your students. Check out this post on teaching adults.

The next thing is how you package what you're teaching. Pastors say we're studying the book of Romans. Can you make it any less interesting? It's a letter to people who are struggling with being human and sinful. In the first 10 (or so) chapters we talk about:

  • Righteousness & Unrighteousness - Which are you? If it's simple why the huge discussion?
  • Obeying God's Law - Do you? Don't you? What are the consequences? What does it say about who you are?
  • Faith and Peace - Really? There doesn't seem to be much around here.
  • Obedience - Nobody likes this one...
  • Dead to Sin/Alive to God - Look at your life. What does this really mean today?  
  • The Purpose of the Law - Once you see your sin, what do you do about it? 
  • Life in the Spirit - Why are you not happy?
  • Message of Salvation - Why then are we not sharing this information? 

I'm so tired of LCMS Adult Bible studies that act like adults are stupid so they give the answers right in the questions. I'm so tired of pastors who lecture and give handouts that don't require anybody to think for themselves. Let the adults use their minds. Let them struggle with what God is telling them to do because we all know the answer - it's right in front of us in black and white - we just don't live by it. Let them struggle with why not together. Challenge them. Challenge yourself. It's no longer about what you should do about it. It's about what you do about it.

Monday, June 17, 2013

SUMMER: Neighborhood Fun Night!

You may have noticed that my last few summer posts have not been about planning and organizing huge events but about pulling back and relaxing. I'm quite convinced that, as a church, in some ways, we try too hard and trust too little. Since summer is a time for slowing down and forcing things never really works anyway, why not relax a little bit and stop trying so hard to push Christ into people's lives and just invite them to join in a neighborhood fun night. No in-depth study, no sermons, no pushy questions, just hanging out, playing some yard games, and having some face-to-face conversations. Don't push... plant... and trust that the Spirit will move in their hearts in God's time.

Among the many you already know about, here are a few great yard games:

  • Big Birdie Golf - This looks SO fun!!
  • Yard Twister - A fun twist to the indoor game.
  • Mini Disc Golf - Inexpensive but challenging.
  • Hide some "treasure" in the yard for a treasure hunt.
  • Frisbee Tic-Tac-Toe - Section a shower curtain and pin it to the ground.
  • Basket Frisbee Golf - Cute idea but needs a bunch of laundry baskets.
  • Croquet, Horse Shoes & Bean Bags - Oldies but goodies.
  • Water Balloon Toss - Sometimes it's fun with partners, tossing and catching them with towels.

Don't forget to make some really crazy medals just for fun!
(you can make them out of small paper plates and markers or jewel them up a bit)