Thursday, January 31, 2013

EDUCATION: The Whole Bible for Kids on DVD? Yep!

Phil Vischer, the creator of Veggie Tales has created a video curriculum called What's In The Bible?  It walks kids through the Bible from Genesis through Revelation using creative characters, fun songs, and uses visual aids to answer some basic questions for kids.  It's a great way to go through the WHOLE BIBLE for kids.

Check it out! 
Here's a sample from YouTube.  If you do a search you'll find many more...



Here's the story of Creation.


Tuesday, January 29, 2013

LEADERSHIP: Decorating or painting the youth room.

A lot of churches have a youth room.  It usually has furniture that's more comfortable than the usual tables and chairs in most education rooms and is designed to make the kids feel more at home.  Hopefully they'll want to hang out and have meaningful conversations which will deepen their faith.

I've seen rooms that have been painted black or other very dark colors, the kids have been allowed to draw and paint murals (some great and some terrible).  The problem is that painting over some of those black or dark colored walls and murals can be VERY difficult and there's no real reason to give the youth free reign or unlimited choices to paint or decorate their space.  Nobody comes to church because of the paint on the wall and there's no reason not to teach the kids to treat the building  with respect.

So, try this.  The youth room walls can be the same color as any other room if you want, but you can give the kids a chance to be creative and personalize the room by putting up some wood railings (see my picture) and letting the kids paint wooden plaques to be attached to the rails.  When kids graduate they can easily be removed, their friends can sign the back and they can take them to college. I suggest some guidelines:

  • The only wood allowed is the wood provided. Nobody can bring in a piece of wood they found in the garage or a huge piece of plywood. 
  • Sizes of plaques will be determined by the adults with the help of the size of the room. Various sizes can look cool.
  • If you don't have somebody who can cut the wood to your chosen sizes, let Home Depot, Lowe's, or Menards do it for you. The plaques you find at Michael's or Hobby Lobby are usually too small, but check them out. 
  • Allow kids to work together with a friend or two to design their plaque. 
  • All plaques must somehow show their faith. 
  • Words and pictures are allowed. 
  • Draft designs on paper must be approved by an adult.

I think you'll find many of the kids will love this, but there are always a few who bring something kind of... well... creepy. Encourage them to try again or maybe work with somebody. Not everyone has to do one, but the ones who don't are separating themselves from the group.

It's not the cool room that keeps kids coming to church.  
It's the cool people!

Friday, January 25, 2013

EDUCATION: Video - The Case for a Creator


The Case for a Creator
I just watched the video The Case for a Creator (2006, 1 hr).  It is a documentary of how self-described atheist (turned Christian) and journalist Lee Strobel researched the validity of the claims of the scientific community regarding creation and evolution.  Are current evolutionary scientific theories actually possible scientifically?  Have Darwin's 1859 predictions been proven true over time?

This video is a really good resource but it would be wise to watch it yourself first and start with a pre-video discussion asking the students (adults or high school youth) what they know about the theory of evolution.  It would also be a great video to have teenagers watch with their parents so they can talk about what's being taught in school at home scientifically.  This is a tough topic and I don't recommend kids using it to argue for creation in school because there is no amount of arguing that will change an atheist scientists mind.  It will, however, show that the scientific argument can be seen from a different perspective and that the science that is shown in public schools is intentionally biased as there is information that has been left out.  Sometimes science points to God but your mind has to be open enough to see it!

You also might stop the video at each section to see if the students have any questions or comments.  Try to get them to compare the science explained in the video to what they were or are taught in school.  If possible, give them a chance at the end to talk together about it.

I got the video through Netflix but it's also available at Amazon at a very reasonable price.



Thursday, January 24, 2013

WOMEN: Easter Bonnet Parade!

As a theme for an Easter Tea or lunch, a mother/daughter tea, or even on its own, try an Easter Bonnet Parade!  It used to be a great tradition for people to dress up for Easter and hats were definitely IN.  So, have a tea or a lunch and as part of the entertainment either have a Easter bonnet fashion show or a creation competition.  If you Google pictures of Easter bonnets you'll get some fantastic ideas.  What a super fun tradition!

The Rules
  • Only straw hats allowed.
  • They must be decorated by the participant (no professionals please).
  • Craft materials that can be used are paper or fabric ribbon, fabric, wire, glue, silk flowers, plastic eggs, Easter grass, etc.

Variations
  • Let the girls create their bonnets and show them in a fashion show.  Everyone gets a prize!
  • Make a bonnet for you and one to share with a new friend at a retirement home.
  • Everyone wears their bonnets on Easter Sunday.
  • Make them at home to wear and share at your special Easter Tea.
  • Have the tea or a luncheon at a retirement home.  The ladies will LOVE it!
  • Make bonnets with the residents and everybody wears them for high tea.

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

EASTER: Planning an Egg Hunt?

For some congregations the Easter Egg Hunt is a huge outreach extravaganza and for others it's a simple community celebration.  Either way, whether on Saturday or Easter Sunday, invite the neighborhood to participate and share the love!  Let us always remember that the purpose of the "event" is not to get people into your church or to see how many participants we can entice with our games and prizes.  It's about sharing the joy of the resurrection with our neighbors and friends.  Prizes are fun but the ultimate prize we've already won.  This is the message!

Ideas to help share the Story
  • Have the congregation donate plastic eggs and individually wrapped candy.
  • Have lunch bags (brown or white) and the first activity is to decorate your bag.  You can provide markers, stickers, and cut out paper shapes and letters, etc. 
  • In order for every child to get eggs, you may limit their "findings" to a certain number.  Once an older child has found their limit they can help the younger ones.
  • Have some eggs that have small novelty toys inside them. (See Oriental Trading.)
  • Create some gold or silver eggs that are special prizes.  Inside they contain the Bible verses that tell the story of Holy Week.  After the hunt is over hand out the prizes as you tell the story to the large group.  They can be like the Wonka golden tickets and receive a special prize like an Arch book.
  • If you have large prizes, make sure they point to Jesus.
  • If you have a small group (or you can have them work in teams) have the story of Holy Week in special eggs and after they've found all the eggs, they have to put the story in order and share it to win the major prize.
  • Major prizes can be gift cards for stores or restaurants, games, videos, or books from the local Christian book store.

Games
  • Egg Roll - kids push a hard boiled egg a certain distance with their noses.
  • Egg Toss - uncooked (if outside) eggs in a traditional toss.  You'll want to use hard boiled if you're inside.
  • Capture the Flag Egg - instead of Capture the Flag have the kids capture some distinctly colored eggs.
  • Hot Potato Egg - play the music and pass the egg until it stops.
  • Egg Balance Relay - the kids have to balance an egg on a teaspoon as they relay, pass the spoon to the next in line and go until their whole team has a chance.
  • Easter Bonnet contest - give the kids some craft supplies and let them either decorate simple hats or create their own out of newspaper, silk flowers, fabric remnants, etc.

If you want 1000 PRE-FILLED eggs for $136 try the Ayers Plastic Easter Eggs.


He is risen, indeed!


Tuesday, January 22, 2013

OUTREACH: Neighborhood Easter Bag Invites

Inspirational Easter Bags - $3.75/doz - Oriental Trading
From Oriental Trading
If it's been a while since you've invited your church neighbors to worship with you, try putting some neighborhood Easter bags together for them.  Put a few simple things inside along with an invitation to worship.  If you're having an Easter Basket Silent Auction it would be a great time to let them know about that, an Easter Egg Hunt (if you have one) or any other festivities.  Don't forget to add the schedule of worship for Holy Week and have them RSVP if they'd like to participate in the Easter Egg Hunt as you'll need to know how many eggs to hide.

In order for it to be a congregational invitation, let everybody help put them together during the Education hour one week and walk through the neighborhood delivering them the next week.  Be sure to remind people not to put them in mailboxes.

Bag Content Ideas - try to get things that are inexpensive but relevant.
  • Book Marks - make your own on cardstock or purchase them
  • Church pens or pencils - you may already have them with church info
  • Commercially Packaged Candy
  • Invitation to visit church - make it funny, offer a free cup of coffee, ...
  • Stickers for the kids
  • Coloring page for the kids
  • A short prayer for them printed on nice, good quality paper

If you need some ideas of where to get appropriate items other than candy at a good price, check out the PINTEREST tab on my home page and look at the Lent/Easter board.  I've pinned a bunch of items for reasonable prices there though most of them are from Oriental Trading as I found they had the best prices.

Invite the neighborhood and share the good news.  HE IS RISEN, INDEED!

Monday, January 21, 2013

YOUTH ACTIVITY: Many People = ONE Group!

Romans 15:5-6
May the God who gives endurance and encouragement give you the same attitude of mind toward each other that Christ Jesus had, so that with one mind and one voice you may glorify the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ.

Next time you need to welcome the next class into the youth group or just want to try a cool unifying activity, try creating a huge puzzle that shows the faith and personality of the group.  Give each kid a large puzzle piece (leaving the edges free to reassemble) and have them decorate it with things that describe their faith and who they are or want to be as a child of God.

Items needed to personalize (anything one might use in a scrapbook): 

Mine shows a campfire (camp ministry),
music, nature, family, and the cross.
(Theirs will look better than this sample!) 
  • glue
  • Mod Podge
  • markers
  • stickers
  • photographs
  • printed Bible verses
  • lace
  • fabric
  • colored paper (non-fading)  

Making the Puzzle
I looked far and wide for a place to purchase giant puzzle pieces but couldn't really find anything suitable so I'd take a template and copy it onto a large piece of cardboard or foam board.  If you tape it to the wall to draw the template, don't forget to use painter's tape.  Use a very sharp knife instead of scissors to cut it apart because scissors will crush the edges, making it look odd when reassembled.  When it is reassembled, attach all the pieces together so it can be hung on the wall.

It'll be a beautiful portrait of every unique soul in the group!!

Thursday, January 17, 2013

YOUTH: The Skit Guys

If you're not familiar with The Skit Guys you should check them out!  They are funny and meaningful and have some really great messages for kids and adults.  They've performed at National Youth Gatherings for years and are always very popular with the kids and, I have to say, with me too.  You can find many of their videos on YouTube or at their website and they would be a great addition to any Bible Study, Lock-In, or youth activity devotion.  They request you download the videos on their site as those are the ones they offer to the public and aren't pirated.  There's one that's hilarious about Adam and Eve that could even be used as an intro to talk about relationships.  Here's a sample called God's Chisel.  It's one of my favorites!


Wednesday, January 16, 2013

LENT: A Christian Seder Meal

Photo:  tumblr.com

Exodus 12:26-27
And when your children say to you, 'What does this rite mean to you?' you shall say, 'It is a Passover sacrifice to the Lord who passed over the houses of the sons of Israel in Egypt when He smote the Egyptians, but spared our homes.'"  And the people bowed low and worshiped.

In many ways smaller congregations are blessed by their size because some things take on more meaning in small groups.  Having a traditional Seder Meal might be one of them.  It would also give members of the congregation a taste of Jewish history and tradition.

The Seder is considered the Jewish Thanksgiving as it is the Passover Dinner giving thanks to God for protecting the first born as the Angel of Death passed over the homes anointed with the blood of the lamb (Exodus 12).  It is also the Last Supper as hosted by Jesus with his disciples before He was sacrificed and asked us to do this in remembrance of Him (Matthew 26).  It is the Feast of Unleavened Bread that we celebrate every time we take Holy Communion. 

A full Seder usually takes place within a family and can take 2 to 4 hours so I would recommend a representative or symbolic Seder.  If you do it before the Maundy Thursday communion service it will add greater meaning to that service and might be a really cool tradition to do with your youth.  Here are my suggestions:

  • Allow about 2 hours for the whole celebration which includes the reading of the script and the dinner.
  • It's typically done in families but I did it once with a larger group at church and it was nice for us all to do it together and not at separate tables.  Do what works best for your group and seating area.
  • If you do it with your youth be sure to have a few adults read the adult parts as it's important to the tradition.
  • Have a lot of people involved in the cooking.  Many hands make light work!

You can get more detailed information on what to serve and a script for the ceremony by going to the Women for Faith and Family's website.  I also found a really nice script that includes the actions that take place at The Voice.  If you like many details including recipes and even a shopping list look at The Faithful Word.

I quite enjoyed the tradition and history and being able to participate in something so meaningful to us as Christians.  Give it a try!

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

SERVICE: Easter Basket Rally


SHARE EASTER and MAKE A FRIEND!

An Easter Basket Rally can be considered service, outreach or both!  This is another idea that I just love because it reaches out through the generations.  The idea is to rally the congregation, the youth, and/or the Sunday school children to either make or donate Easter baskets to be given to a local retirement home, women's shelter, half-way house, homeless shelter, etc.

Call ahead to make sure it's okay for the kids to deliver them personally.  It's a lot better to have many smaller baskets than only a few very large ones but if you have a few large ones you can present to a group in a "common" room.  Be smart about the things you want to donate as what goes into the basket may depend on where it's going (you might want to get a list of appropriate food if you want to donate to a hospital) but even a few Easter bags with grass and candy will go a long way to brighten somebody's day unexpectedly.

Make sure you include a small devotional book or at the very least some inspirational Bible verses.  If you want a good source for inexpensive devotional pamphlets to add try these:  Inspirational Wholesale or Christianbook.com.  You can add a copy of Portals of Prayer from CPH for a very reasonable price.  Don't forget to have the kids make a Happy Easter card as well!



HE IS RISEN, INDEED!!


Monday, January 14, 2013

PARENTS: Computer Use Contract


A lot of kids NEED a personal laptop in order to get their school work done.  Okay, they don't.  But they sure want one!  And they sure want the privacy of using it in their bedrooms.  The problem is that no matter how mature your child may seem, the reasoning part of his/her brain isn't fully developed until about the age of 25.  This means that kids don't always have the ability to predict certain consequences of their actions.  They also have a much smaller world view than adults and don't realize that the internet is an open door to people with whom they should not be friendly.  Satan loves the internet because it is so easy to hide there.

We don't want kids to be afraid of the internet and it's great to be able to provide them with all these electronics but we do need to teach them to be wise and more than that, we want them to feel that they can approach us when something inappropriate or harmful happens online.  Many families have a "family computer" that is in a public place such as the family room where kids can get their work done and parents can keep an eye on the sites the kids are using and their social media activity.  Many others, however, want to provide their kids with a computer in their bedroom or a personal laptop.  Being allowed the private use of a computer comes with responsibility.  Letting kids use a computer privately may be extremely convenient but here are some interesting facts:
  • The majority of parents have no idea what their teenagers see, read, and/or type in chat rooms or via instant messaging or email.  Nor do they know what videos or photos are uploaded.
  • Over half of teenagers have received requests for personal information online. 
  • 42% said they have posted personal information online.  Many don't even realize that the information they post is considered personal or understand how it can be used.
  • Over half have had private conversations with online strangers through instant messaging.
  • 70% of children have encountered pornography accidentally and even more than that receive inappropriate spam messages.
  • 1 out of 5 teenagers has been solicited sexually online!
  • 75% of teens who received an online sexual solicitation DID NOT TELL A PARENT, many out of concern that they might lose their internet privileges.
  • 1 in 3 have experienced online harassment or cyber-bullying.

Many parents have created their own set of rules and keep a good handle on the household rules regarding computer use but in order to help those parents show kids how serious they are about keeping them safe from online harm, I've created a FAMILY COMPUTER PRIVACY CONTRACT to help them set appropriate boundaries with their kids for the use of a private computer.  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 if you allow kids on-site internet access for homework clubs, etc.


Friday, January 11, 2013

LENT: Children's Change for Charity Jar

I LOVE this idea!

Young children have a hard time understanding the concept of self-sacrifice much less understanding what Jesus sacrificed for them.  They don't know how to self-reflect; it's a skill that develops as they grow.  They are learning to share and what it means to be nice to each other and Lent is a great time for remembering how much we have and sharing it.  They also love putting money in the offering plate so why not try having a Children's Change for Charity jar throughout the Lenten season.

During Lent have the Sunday School kids decide on a local charity they want to donate their Lent offering to (give them 2 or 3 choices) and create a jar that can sit near the front of the sanctuary with a huge label naming the charity on it.  During the offering let the kids go up and drop their coins in the jar while the ushers pass the plate.  At first the very young may need to be led but soon they'll go on their own when they see the other kids doing it.  If the change makes noise as it drops in the jar, let it.  Kids like that!

On Easter Sunday (or the Sunday after) make sure you announce where the money is going and if possible, invite somebody from the organization to be there to thank the kids.  If not, be sure to let the congregation and kids know how their money will help others.  Use pictures so the little ones can better understand how their change can change somebody's life!  We love because He first loved us!  1 John 4:19

This is something that can be done all year long but would definitely be a cool Lent tradition!

Thursday, January 10, 2013

PARENTS: Teenagers and Trust

Though it's not an idea that you can implement, talking about trust is an important conversation to have with teenagers.  I recently saw a TV show where a single dad came home from work unexpectedly one afternoon to find his 16 year old daughter at home with a boy in her bedroom and they had a conversation about trust.

Their conversation went like this:
Dad:  You know why I trust you, don't you?
Daughter:  Ya.  Because you're smart and you're a great dad and what other choice do you have?
Dad:  (long pause)  Ya.  (He hugs her.)  END OF SCENE

WHAT?  His response SHOULD HAVE been:
Dad:  (long pause)  Well, actually, I do have another choice.  A great dad's job is to provide boundaries to protect his kids when they don't know to protect themselves.  I've done that since the day you were born.  I don't trust you just because you're my child and I love you.  I trust you because you have earned it over the last 16 years by showing me that you are trustworthy.  Every time you give me a reason not to trust you, it breaks down what took us all that time to build and once it's broken it will take a very long time to repair or rebuild it.  It also breaks my heart because I want to trust you.  Over that time you also learned to trust me.  I have guided you, protected you, provided for you, and loved you and I always will.  (He hugs her.)  END OF SCENE

Here's the reality check.
No matter how much we love our teenagers, they're going to lie to us, test the boundaries, and push us as they are on a trek to independence.  They are smart, their higher level reasoning skills kicked in at about 7th grade, they know what they want and they think they deserve it.  They're also starving to fit in somewhere in the world and think they're adults.

The problem is that the reasoning part of their brain develops last and isn't quite done until they're about 25 years old.  They still need parental guidance because at this time in their lives many have trouble predicting the consequences of their behavior beyond a certain point, especially when feelings and hormones override their reason.  (Everyone develops at a different rate.)  They need to know that trust is earned and that losing it comes at a price.

EDUCATION: Lent for Kids

Lent is right around the corner.  It's a time of self-reflection and remembering, a time of repentance and prayer, a time of giving.  But instead of making it a time of negativity and rules and taking away (sacrifice) for kids, try to make it a time of inspiration.  Instead of giving something up, try giving something else.  Talk to kids about being thankful for the gifts God gives by doing small (or random) acts of charity, having special prayer times and praying for other people.  Make it a time to read special books about Jesus' ministry through His resurrection.

The Easter StoryHere's what you can expect kids to understand:

Children younger than three can be told that Jesus is alive and with us today.  Yeah!!

Preschool children will appreciate a simple explanation that Jesus died on a cross, was buried in a tomb, and then rose on Easter Sunday so we can be with Him in heaven.  Hooray!  If you'd like a book for preschoolers try The Easter Story.

Kids this age will not benefit from having to put a toy away during Lent.  They'll give it up because they're told they have to but they won't be doing it willingly as they don't understand the concept of sacrifice.

The Week That Led to Easter - Arch BooksYounger elementary children can hear stories from the gospels without going into too much detail. They will ask questions about things they're curious about or don't understand and you can answer them honestly but simply. If you're looking for a book for this age group try the Arch book, The Week that Led to Easter.  

Kids this age won't yet benefit from having to sacrifice something either.  They understand sharing or giving but not sacrifice.

Older elementary children can be exposed to more particulars of Maundy Thursday and Good Friday.  A good book for kids this age is The Easter Story as it is drawn directly from the Bible.

They're beginning to understand and can participate in self-reflecting activities, if guided, and may benefit from giving something up for Lent.  They should also be able to make special prayer requests.


The Easter Story: Drawn directly from the Bible


Wednesday, January 9, 2013

OUTREACH: Plastic Easter Egg-vites

Last year I talked my church into filling plastic Easter Eggs with a few pieces of commercial candy and an invitation to celebrate Easter with our congregation.  The outreach director decided to call them Egg-vites.  The idea was to hand them out in the parking lot of a nearby grocery store.  Depending on your city's statutes, you may need written permission from the property owner to do something like that because they own the parking lot as well as the store so it's considered private property.  Our request was declined so we had to come up with a new plan.  The church isn't near any public parks, dog parks or downtown streets, etc. so we were limited with regard to inviting the locals BUT not wanting to give up, we decided the real purpose of outreach is to spread the good news of the resurrection and NOT to grow church attendance.  We would spread the seeds and let the Holy Spirit nurture and sprout them!

Here are some distribution options:
  • Find a place near the church and get the written permission of the owner (not the manager) of the store.
  • Choose a few public places near the church to pass them out without the need for permission.
  • Give them to members of the congregation to give to friends and coworkers. 
  • Don't include the church's contact info and just spread the saving word of God by putting Bible verses in eggs and putting them anywhere you want.
  • If you're having an Easter Egg Hunt give one or two to the Sunday School kids as an invitation to come to the hunt!



If you'd like to see a copy of the Bible verse/invitation insert check here.  Be careful about deciding to put the eggs out in a mall or other privately owned places thinking you'll claim ignorance and ask forgiveness later.  That's not the greatest message for a church to send.

Tuesday, January 8, 2013

FUNDRAISING: Easter Basket Silent Auction



While we want to keep in mind the point of Lent and Easter as being reflective and penitent, it is also a time of reaching out and helping others.  Easter Baskets may make a nice silent auction fundraiser to benefit either your congregation or another organization.

You can have a variety of gourmet or themed baskets for adults and/or a bunch of regular candy and toy baskets people can purchase as some people may not have the time to put together baskets for their kids and would love the opportunity to purchase them.  Be creative about these and have some for multiple aged children.

Proceeds can either go to a specific ministry within your church such as VBS, a scholarship fund, or a campership fund for sending kids to a NLOMA camp, or can be designated to a pre-chosen charity organization outside the church.  Be sure to set a starting bid/price for each basket.

Basket Ideas
There are any number of great basket ideas but here a few to get your creative juices flowing:

  • Wine
  • BBQ (tools and sauces) 
  • Gardening, 
  • Movie Night
  • Baked Goods 
  • Spring Flower Seeds 
  • Men's or Women's  
  • Gourmet Candy
  • Coffee  
  • Regular Kids Baskets 
REMEMBER that letting the neighborhood know about your auction is key to their participation!  Put a sign up letting them know which days it be held and be sure to have at least one Sunday when the church will be open a little later after the service so people can look around.


Monday, January 7, 2013

GOOD FRIDAY: Put YOUR Nail in His Cross


Matthew 27:37
And above His head they put up the charge against Him which read, "THIS IS JESUS THE KING OF THE JEWS."

Good Friday is one of my favorite services because it's one of the few times that we focus solely on our part in the crucifixion of Jesus and don't white wash it with praise songs.  We dwell, for a moment, on the cross with Jesus.


Here's an idea to make it even more personal and get the point across that WE helped pound those nails.
  • Create a wooden cross (of soft wood) and lay it on the floor in front of the sanctuary.  If you have a larger congregation you may need more than one.  
  • Have a few hammers (maybe 4 at each cross), nails, and some thumb tacks for the kids available at each cross.  
  • Provide some small pieces of paper as people arrive to write their name on.  That name represents them, their original sin, and all the sins they commit knowingly and unknowingly.
  • Traditionally we are to leave quietly after the loud noise.  A cool end to that service might be to have people nail their name to the cross before the loud noise.
  • Stand the cross(es) up in silence, hear the loud noise, and leave in silence.

The next question would be what happens to the names then on Easter Sunday?  There are a few options:
  • Take them all down so that the cross is empty as the resurrection wiped those sins away.  It would be your option to take the nails as well or leave them there as symbols for the next few weeks.
  • Before the Easter Sunday celebration begins have a short skit at the beginning where the women who go to the tomb talk about the tomb being empty and while they speak of the resurrection, they remove the names.
  • Drape white over the cross to cover the sins.



Thursday, January 3, 2013

MEN & HS YOUTH: Sports League Anyone?

When I was growing up in Colorado we had a sports league where Lutheran churches in the Denver metro area got together every Sunday afternoon to play coed basketball (spring), volleyball (fall), and softball (summer) at one of the churches that had a school field and/or a gym.  We weren't in the competitive league but it was fantastic!

Men need and want friends but they don't really like to hang out unless it's about beer and yard sports or BBQ.  They don't want to share recipes or quilt or talk about their feelings. Most men really like sports and/or are looking for reasons to get moving.  I know my church participates in the city co-rec league for softball but why not try to develop sports leagues within your district?  There are about 246 congregations in the Minnesota South district.  Why not start a MNS sports league?  How much fun would it be to get together and have a championship basketball tournament at Concordia University in St. Paul?  (Or even one of the local high schools?)

Here's what would be needed:

  • Somebody to organize and communicate.  (I would be willing to take that on for my district.)
  • A fee for each participating team would be required to pay referees and purchase tournament trophies.
  • Churches to volunteer the use of their gym or field each Sunday afternoon.
  • Somebody to find referees each week.
  • Each church would have to have a contact person.

There are any number of options.  As youth we played co-rec everything but I think there was a competitive guys-only basketball bracket that our church didn't have enough interest in to participate.  What a great way to develop relationships with other churches and build camaraderie among men in the congregation!

Wednesday, January 2, 2013

EDUCATION: Children's Message Echo Story


 Free Students Signs Clipart

Oftentimes we use ECHO PRAYERS when we pray with children because they are simple, they use words that the kids can understand, and they help children learn to pray and feel more comfortable praying out loud.  The leader says a short phrase and the kids repeat it.

Developmentally, younger kids LOVE stories.  They learn from a story far more than a stand alone message from an unattached scripture passage out of the pericopes.  Try doing that with Bible stories for a Children's Message.  You can still use whatever theme you're working with that day but instead of an object lesson, which is often lost on young kids, try an ECHO STORY (you can use a children's Bible or any storybook).  Tell the story but have specific places within the story where the kids will repeat the line or answer an echo question.  Here's how it works.

  • QUESTION ECHO - While you share the story, pause to ask simple questions.  "One day a man named Jonah was told by God to go somewhere.  WHO WAS THE MAN?  (Jonah!)  WHO TOLD HIM TO GO?  (God!)  You don't need to ask a question after every single point but you do want to make sure the kids repeat the important parts of the story as that's what they'll remember most.
  • PAUSE TO REPEAT ECHO - While you share the story, pause in specific places to have the kids repeat that line.  "Zacchaeus was a short, rich man and nobody liked him.  He took money from people to give to the government so nobody liked Zacchaeus.  NOBODY LIKED ZACCHAEUS.  He wanted to see Jesus.  Hmmm, what should Zacchaeus do?  He looked around and climbed up a tree to see Jesus.  HE CLIMBED UP A TREE TO SEE JESUS."  You get the idea...  You'll want to make sure these are pretty short and that the lines are kept short enough that the kids can remember them.  You also want to remember that you're telling the story to get a point across so you need to make sure you get your point across in the story and they should be repeating that.
  • REPEAT THE PHRASE ECHO - Tell kids that every time you put your hand to your ear the kids echo a specific phrase or every time you say certain words they echo a specific phrase back to you.  This one works great when trying to get kids to understand something that's complex.  For example, if the basic message is JESUS LOVE EVERYONE and you tell a story about a bunch of mean, sad, ugly, unexpected types of people, every time you put your hand to your ear have the kids say JESUS LOVES EVERYONE!
Oh!  And if there's a specific Bible passage you'd like them to remember, make it short and have them repeat it after you a few times throughout the story similarly to REPEAT THE PHRASE.  You can make up your own stories about life or use an online children's Bible if you need a little help telling Bible stories.

Bible Suite Children's Bible
The Bible Story Guy
The Bible for Children
A Bible in many languages:  Bible for Children, Inc.
Jesus and Kidz
Super Online Kids Bible

I'm sure there are many more...

Tuesday, January 1, 2013

H.S. YOUTH: Minute to Win It! Games


I love the Minute to Win It games.  They're fun, creative, and kids love the challenge and competition.  They also aren't games for those who are strong physically but take a little brain power as well.  I've been pulling them off the internet and it's a tough task.  Today a DCE friend of mine found this Minute to Win It Game Activity Guide.

If you really want to make it fun put the names of each game in a balloon and the winner gets to pop the next balloon to find out the new game.  I know... you wish you had it for your New Year's Eve party!!