Sunday, April 28, 2013

EDUCATION: Children and Picture Storylines

The Tower of Babel
BibleStoryPrintables.com

As I keep saying, children love stories and they learn about Bible stories by hearing them, reading them, and by sharing them. There's a reason why curriculum for children comes with pictures. Many children (and people in general) remember best when they see pictures. When talking about the stories for the Sunday School lesson of the week, try using pictures. If you're going through The Story with younger kids put a picture for each part of the story on the wall in your SS classroom. If you're using a different curriculum, they nearly always come with pictures that can be used the same way. You can also find plenty of Bible story printables online if you do a simple search. Here's a great one for Christian/Bible coloring pages. They come with and without quotes.

One of the beginning activities each week could be to start the class by pointing to each picture and telling the story up to the new part you'll be learning that day. Pretty soon the kids will be able to tell it with you! Periodically you can give them a little quiz by putting the pictures in the wrong order and letting the kids fix them.


Saturday, April 27, 2013

SUMMER: Backyard Wednesdays or Summer Tuesdays?

I've always wanted to start a casual ministry outside during the summer. It would be something very relaxed and informal called Backyard Wednesdays or Summer Tuesdays or whatever day you choose. It could be every two weeks or you could rotate groups and have one week for families, the next for adults, and the next for youth. I'd have them after dinner at 6:30 or 7 (or later for adults).  The goal would be Christian fellowship, connection, and conversation. I've found that having the ability to play music around a fire can be a great thing so you might want to invest in a simple way to do that without intruding too much on the neighborhood. My vision might be something along these lines:
  • For youth - A few games, appropriate music, and conversation on a Bible and life topic. Teenagers always have questions about why things are the way they are. This would be a great place to use a question jar so the kids can have some input regarding what will be discussed. Adults can volunteer to be there to help the conversation but remember that teenagers won't discuss certain topics honestly with parents around. When I was in high school we all liked to lay in the yard and look at the stars and the most random topics would arise about life, the world, and the universe. Don't forget to pray!
  • For adults (of all ages) - Wine (or beer) if allowed, music, a fire and conversation on a Bible and life topic. Adults need to connect with other adults. They may want different music from the kids but the conversation might end up surprisingly similar. With the varied ages of adults in a congregation the conversation could be amazing. Don't forget to pray!
  • For families - Games and popcorn outside in the yard. This would be a little less conversational and a little more active. Popcorn is a simple snack after games and the games could just be normal yard games. Don't forget the prayer and have a short devotion that might include a song. Kids love to sing!
After a while I would bet it would be so casual and relaxing that people start inviting friends to come enjoy Backyard Wednesdays. People rarely take the time to talk about the questions that are swimming through their minds like:

  • What am I doing with my life?
  • Where do I fit in the world?
  • What does God want from me?
  • What really is God's plan for me and can I know what it is?
  • What should I do with the trials of life and what does God have to do with them?
  • What if I become resentful of God because I'm not happy?
We often get so focused on the pace of life that taking a few moments to relax and ponder God's universe and our place in it can be attitude changing and sometimes that's exactly what we need. It's about ministry of presence and being present for each other in a real way. 

YOUTH: Mini Disc Golf

Some churches have great yards or lots of outdoor space. If you don't, this game can easily be played in a local park. It's a combination of Croquet, Ding, and Disc Golf so I call it Mini Disc Golf. It's a great game because there's no special equipment needed. All you need are "wickets" made with garden stakes and plastic cups, and flying discs. You can use a standard croquet course or create one that suits the age level of the group.
Sample "wicket" or goal.

  • Lay out your course. Make sure the challenge level is appropriate for the age group or you can use a version of a regular croquet course. See samples below.
  • Put up your "wickets" or goals. You'll need sturdy 5 ft garden stakes (can be found for about $1.50 each) and plastic cups. Plant two stakes the diameter of a large disc plus two fist lengths apart with a cup upside down on top. A difficult course would have more narrow goals. The stakes only have to be deep enough to stand up against a disc bump.
  • The goal is to finish the course with the fewest points, similarly to golf.
  • Scoring:  Every stroke or throw to the next goal is a point. If the disc is thrown through the goal without touching the sides it's a point. Hitting the goal without unseating the cup is 2 points. Hitting the goal and unseating the cup is 3 points. You can decide if you want to allow entering the goal from behind if somebody overshoots or if they have to come back around, or if they have to re-shoot the goal from the beginning, depending on the age of the players. 
This would be a simple but fun game for any church picnic!


Sample Mini Disc Course

Basic Croquet Course Layout

Sunday, April 21, 2013

EDUCATION: Bible Timelines

It's difficult for kids to visualize the Bible within a time frame. It isn't necessarily written in order of time which is confusing for kids and they know their world in their time. We also tend to pick and choose pieces of the Bible that we think will be more interesting for kids to study or we let them choose topics. (I have a beef with topics but that's a discussion for another time.) The Bible can be a pretty exciting book if you think about it. It's full of action and adventure, love, misdeeds and forgiveness.  When you put things like timelines on a wall and refer back to them as you study, students begin to have a greater understanding of the "big picture" of how God has dealt with His people over time. It can be far more enlightening than looking at one individual event at a time. If you have a long hallway, let the middle or high school students (or both if your church is small) create a Bible timeline along that wall. Be sure to discuss each event as it happened and to discuss patterns as you go. Even the youngest of children like to go through a timeline and relive the stories of what they've learned throughout the year.

How to use timelines:
  • Create one for the whole Bible as it is studied in an overall "big picture" course throughout a year. Don't get too bogged down in every detail.
  • Create one as a special course where students discover where each book and major event fits in time.
  • Have students create a timeline of events for the book they're currently studying.
  • Let younger students create a simple timeline of the stories in the order in which they learn them.
REMEMBER: The goal is NOT TO COPY a timeline but to CREATE ONE. By the way... a timeline is great for adults too!

Resources:
There are a lot of resources out there for things like this but some have too little and some too much information. Check these out!

Bible Timeline of the whole Bible including Biblical references.
Blue Letter Bible is a great way to see how/where the people of the Bible fit in time.
Bible Timelines has a LOT of information... almost too much for kids.
This timeline diagram is fantastic but I couldn't find a source.
Rose Book of Bible Charts, Maps, and Timelines would be a great reference book.
Giant 10-Ft Bible Timeline would be great to help the kids.
Reproducible Maps, Charts, Timelines, and Illustrations would also be helpful with kids.
Voyages - Old Testament Timeline is a pictorial overview of the Old Testament.
Voyages - New Testament Timeline is a pictorial overview of the New Testament.


Saturday, April 20, 2013

H.S. YOUTH: "Remember when..." Books for Graduates

When I worked at Camp Luther (WI) there was a tradition of sending the summer staff off with a small half-page memory book. Everyone received a half-page to write what they wanted to share with the staff on and they were photocopied for the last day of camp. I still read them today!

Send the graduating youth off to college with a great connection to the youth group and the church with a memory book or scrapbook. Pictures are so easy to print these days it should be a breeze or you can make online scrapbooks. They may remain free online or you could have them printed for a small fee (depending on their size) as a graduation gift. One way to do it is to give everyone 2 pages (they can be half or whole), 1 for a memory with photos and 1 to put anything on that they want that person to remember while they're away whether it be a devotion, poem, favorite Bible verse, etc. Another way would be to do a group book where random things are added to pages. Don't forget to let the pastor and any other important adults put in a page as well.

They can include:
  • Memories or stories of things that happened over the years.
  • Pictures of people and events.
  • Reminiscences of mission trips or youth gatherings.
  • Favorite song lyrics.
  • Prayers for while they're away.
  • Have each member of the group write up a devotion or inspirational words and prayer.
  • Personal memory, name and contact information.
Don't let them graduate, go off to college, and feel disconnected. Let them know they take everyone with them!

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

CONFIRMATION: Take it Outside the Classroom! PART 3

This is the last installment of ideas to take what's being learned in confirmation outside the classroom. Unless, of course, I come up with a few more. Unfortunately these are kind of unrelated. When interviewing others please help them come up with appropriate questions to make sure they get the information you want them to have for the discussion.

Have students:
  • Go on an information hunt. Give them a topic for the next week and tell them to search either online or at a library to find out specific information such as: definitions of words, examples of concepts, song examples related to a topic, descriptions of what other faiths believe, etc. Sometimes it's a lot easier to start a discussion about something when the kids have had to find out something about it first. It's also more fun for them than having you just tell them everything.
  • Contact an adult and a child their age of another faith to find out what they believe. It would be a lot more interesting to find out about Muslim beliefs from a real person who practices them. See if they can find an atheist as well!
  • Use a topical Bible to find scripture references on a specific topic. Not all verses fit a topic so it could lead to a great discussion regarding Biblical context.
  • Use their Facebook wall to ask their peers a question. Tell them they need a certain number of responses.
  • Text a specific number of people (or friends) questions throughout the week and record their responses on a chart.
I always find it so much more interesting to help students find out about the world and what people believe first hand. It's a real discussion starter and it's almost always surprising to them when they find out what friends believe as well as good for them to find out when others believe similarly to them and what specific things they believe differently. Give it a try!

Monday, April 15, 2013

PARENTS: YouTube Safety Mode for Kids

Did you know YouTube has a SAFE SEARCH option for kids? While it doesn't catch every offensive video it does get most of them. To turn SAFE SEARCH on, log on, scroll all the way down to the bottom and click on Safety: OFF. Turn it ON and then you can choose whether or not you want to LOCK the safety mode in the on position. Doing this will allow you to let your kids use your computer to watch funny YouTube videos without getting the ugliness some people post. It also takes out offensive language in comments and replaces it with asterisks. YouTube officially says this about its safety mode:
"When you opt in to Safety Mode, videos with potentially objectionable content or that have been age restricted will not show up in video search, related videos, playlists, shows and movies. Safety Mode does not remove content from the site but rather keeps it off the page for users who opt in. While no filter is 100% accurate, we're continually updating and improving our filters to be able to identify inappropriate videos for Safety Mode."
Here's a short YouTube video from Common Sense Media that will tell you all about it.


Sunday, April 14, 2013

EDUCATION: Scripture, Memory, and Song!

Psalm 119:11
I have stored up your Word in my heart that I might not sin against you.

We've all memorized the lyrics to thousands of songs and often when just a few notes of a melody are played we know the name of the song before we've heard a word. People use scripture in many of the Christian songs on the radio but they're usually not direct and they rarely, if ever, add a scripture reference. I recently found some really great songs to help students of all ages memorize scripture!

My favorite is from Seeds Family Worship. These are good for all ages... even high school aged kids will find them pretty cool. There are many discs you can get at Amazon.com and you can find individual songs on iTunes. They are listed by name and scripture reference. Here's a good example from YouTube.



Another is the Hide the Word Series by Mark Altrogge. The songs are great but aren't quite as edgy as the songs by Seeds Family Worship seem to be. There are over 190 different scriptures set to music on 10 different discs. They can be found at Amazon.com as well and are listed by scripture reference on each album. (I couldn't find a sample on YouTube.)


The other that I liked are Hide 'Em in Your Heart by Steve Green but they are definitely for younger kids and while I love the songs, the scripture references aren't incorporated into them. They're given apart from the melody which will make it harder for kids to remember them.

How To Use Them

So, now that you have all these great songs, how can they be used?
  • Pick a song for the Week (or month) and play it as much as possible on Sundays and  Wednesdays (if you have a Wednesday education program).
  • Sunday School Opening - Most churches have a short opening program where all the kids get together, pray, take offering, and sing a few songs. What a perfect time to introduce the memory verse/song of the week (or month)!
  • Mood Setter - If you don't have a Sunday School opening try a Mood Setter. It's an intentional activity that sets the tone for the class. Having a song chosen and playing as the kids enter the classroom is a good way to set the mood and it will remain with them. Be sure to sing it with them at least once before you turn it off.
  • During Work Time - When kids are working on an art project, coloring, or doing some busywork is also a good time to play these songs, especially if there's one you want them to focus on that day. Don't play music during any time when you want the kids to think or process as that will slow down their ability to focus on the task or discussion at hand. 
  • As They Leave - When parents come to pick students up or as they hang around with their friends chatting after class put the music back on. They'll leave the room singing it!
  • Follow Up Next Week - If you want something in long-term memory you need to play it for more than one day so make sure you play scripture songs they've been learning on Wednesdays or during Sunday School openings.
  • Tell Parents - Be sure to tell the parents of younger kids where they can find the CD's to play them in the car or at home.
  • Tell Youth - they can download many of these songs from Amazon.com or iTunes.
Psalm 37:31 - The law of his God is in his heart; his steps do not slip.

Friday, April 12, 2013

WORSHIP: Putting Scripture References on Slides

Most people, even those who have been saying the liturgy their whole lives, don't realize that a great majority, if not all, of a worship service comes right out of the Bible. They have no idea that even much of what they sing comes from the Bible. That's one reason they think it's no big deal to change it to whatever we want, right? Well, not really. To help answer that see my previous posting on Worship Education.

Why not let people know where in Scripture the parts of the service come from by adding the scripture reference to the slide when possible? Not everyone puts every part of the service on a slide but it sure won't hurt to educate the people just a little more. Some possible examples are below. Mine aren't as impressive as my pastor's but you get the idea...



Thursday, April 11, 2013

YOUTH: Books IN the youth room? WHAT?

Professionally, aside from trying in my own small way to improve overall education in the church, I teach high school math. In my room I have a bookshelf and, believe it or not, the books are NOT all about math or numbers or something to do with math or numbers. They are books I feel are appropriate for high school students and contain something worthy of thought and these days, kids need those. It's a math class so there's not a lot of time for reading but they're there so the kids have something to read after tests, quizzes, or when their homework is done and they're getting restless.

Many churches have a library that primarily has books that have been donated and it's in a tiny corner of a room somewhere. Most of the books are intentionally Christian stories, devotionals, biographies of Christian people, books on theology, different translations of the Bible, Bible studies, etc. Depending on the church and whether or not there's a large population of young children, there may also be a larger section of children's stories.

Why not have a bookshelf in the youth room? Why not provide a list of books that people can donate that would be beneficial for teenagers? The youth may not rush to read them but they'll provide a number of opportunities for discussion, when they are bored someone may grab one for a few moments and find it interesting enough to continue reading, when they arrive early or have to stay later to wait for a ride a book could be suggested, it will help improve their reading ability, and it'll get them out of their headphones for a bit. They do not all have to be about Jesus or be self-help books to be beneficial. Be sure to put a few different Bibles and reference books in there too!

Among others, try any of these...
  • Life's Big Questions, God's Big Answers (CPH - Straight answers about faith.)
  • Time to Pray (CPH - Prayers for Youth)
  • Wild at Heart (John Eldredge - A book about boys becoming men.)
  • Mere Christianity (C.S. Lewis - A doctrine of Christian belief.)
  • The Screwtape Letters (C.S. Lewis - A devil teaches his underling about manipulating humans.)
  • The Great Divorce (C.S. Lewis - A group from hell take a field trip to heaven.)
  • Who do you think you are? (Mark Driscoll - Find your identity in Christ.)
  • Hind's Feet on High Places (Hannah Hurnard - A hind called Much Afraid learns to be brave and follow the shepherd.)
  • Surprised by Joy (C.S. Lewis - How Lewis found joy.)
  • ANY of the Narnia books (C.S. Lewis)
  • Wisdom On... Friends, Dating, and Relationships (Mark Matlock - How to be smarter about friends, dating, and handling conflict.)
  • Wisdom On... Music, Movies, and Television (Mark Matlock - Why do you choose to watch and listen to the things you do?)
  • Wisdom On... Growing in Christ (Mark Matlock - What should I do to get closer to God?)
  • Wisdom On... Getting Along with Parents (Mark Matlock - Gives insight about parents for youth.)
  • What Does God Want from Me? (Mark Matlock - What does it mean to be a Christian?)

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

CONFIRMATION: Take it Outside the Classroom! Part 2

Here are a few more ideas to get kids thinking about their faith and what they believe outside the classroom.

One of the problems kids in confirmation have is that they don't really interact regarding their faith or beliefs outside of church unless they go to a Christian school. Some families may talk more about it but if you can tell from many of their church attendance before and after confirmation, probably not a lot of kids have deep conversations with family members either. The result is that they don't really know what other people believe about anything they're taught. Unless they go to the same church they probably don't know what their friends believe either.  Here are a few ways to get them interacting with people both in and out of the congregation.  Be sure to create specific questions you want them to ask and during class you can have them participate in choosing the questions. They may have some pretty good ideas of their own but don't let them come up with their own questions without approving them. Also, be sure the questions are open ended.

Have them...

  • Talk to 5 people inside and 5 people outside of the congregation (not family members) about the topic.
  • Choose 5 people over a certain age to ask about a topic and 5 people under a certain age about a topic to see how people of different generations believe differently.
  • Call a relative (or Godparent) about the topic.
  • Visit a retirement home and have them talk about how the world has changed regarding religion and what they believe.
  • Interview 5 friends who they don't think are Christians to find out what they believe about specific topics. 
  • Interview 5 friends of different denominations to find out what they believe about specific topics.
Create a form or worksheet of some kind with the questions on it and room for answers or their thoughts will be muddled in their responses and have as many forms available as the number of people they need to talk to. (Go ahead and copy them back to back.) Be absolutely sure you talk about how they would answer the questions first just in case whoever they're asking turns the tables on them and expects them to answer the same questions in return. If they're going to be asking people personal questions about their faith, they should know what their beliefs are first!

Monday, April 8, 2013

EDUCATION: End of Year Sunday School Cards

The end of the Sunday School year is coming up as quickly as the end of the school year. Do you do anything special for the students in your Sunday School? Try giving them either a certificate or a small card that has God's Promise for... each one of them.  Be sure to think about their personalities and give each student a different verse.  You can either make it fancy or plain and be sure to laminate them.  After a number of years in Sunday School kids will have many cards reminding them that God's promise is for them, by name.  Interestingly, it means so much more when Biblical promises are made personal.

A variation could be handed out for VBS too.  What a great thing for everyone to take home!


Saturday, April 6, 2013

ADULT EDUCATION: A sage on the stage?

Many adult Bible study classes are about an adult speaking and other adults listening or about whatever book is being used and going through it together. The adult speaking is more often than not the pastor and some people describe a pastor's adult Bible study as a long sermon though most pastors feel the opposite. Many pastors are very good speakers and have a lot to share but they don't seem to know how to facilitate a good discussion. Some other adults who lead adult Bible studies don't always feel confident in leading other adults. After all, "What if they know more than I do?"

Tips for Teaching Adults
  • There will almost always be somebody who knows more than you do (even if you're the pastor) about something.  Don't sweat it.  Ask them to share what they know.  It will add to the discussion.
  • Lectures are not evil.  They are often a great way to impart information and they can be dynamic and fun.  Just don't make them too long.  The adult attention span is about 15-20 minutes.
  • Adults like active learning too.  Adults like to solve problems and think about things from different perspectives.  We like to be challenged.  It's the really great discussion about a topic that keeps us engaged.
  • Pay attention to those 'teachable moments' when you go off task. Take advantage of them. They are rare and valuable and they give you insight into what people are most interested in knowing.
  • Consider yourself as participating in a dialogue with your peers. Don't give answers before they've had a chance to think about the question. Learn to be comfortable waiting.
  • When you tell somebody something it may impress them for a moment. When they talk about it and it runs around their minds a bit, it impresses them more and sticks longer.
  • Give them a problem and let them come up with the solutions, sharing more pieces as the discussion continues. For example, we recently talked about Pentecost, witnessing and speaking in tongues. Pastor knew what he wanted to tell us but we didn't get a chance to wrestle with any of it. Propose the problem or ask some provoking questions and give them a few minutes to wrestle with it as a group or in smaller groups. With regard to witnessing, what is our job and what is the job of the Holy Spirit? What does the Bible say? How do you reconcile it with how you live your life?  Let them discuss and solve the problem. It's the leader's job to focus the discussion.

Significant Questions are a Big Deal

Questions can either elicit information, shape understanding, or press for reflection. Many times we ask questions that simply require people to repeat what they just read. Significant questions require the participant to think a little more deeply and/or apply the information to their lives. The easiest way I can tell you about significant questions is to show you. I used a sample taken from Witness, Mercy, Life Together (Questions 6, 7, and 8), written by Albert B. Collver III, published by CPH, 2011. The questions in BLUE are samples of possible significant questions added by me. If you want to see all the sample questions for the Bible study you can find them here. I chose this example because it seems to be a very typical adult Bible study.


Content of a Witness

When called as a witness in a court of law, what are the kinds of things we are expected to share?  Are we to add opinions or just state the facts?  Why is that?  


Read John 1:29–34.
6.  What is the content of the message that a witness gives (vv. 29, 34)?
The answer is obvious and given (vv. 19, 34).  Answer:  “the lamb of God” and “God’s chosen one”.  
God was very clear that John was to let people know that Jesus was God’s son, the Lamb of God.  Think about what you know about the apostles.  Each one of them shared according to his personality because everybody says and shares things differently.  Describe what you know about the personality and witnessing style of the apostles. What is the content of your witness?  How does your witness fit your personality? 
7.  Why did the Holy Spirit, who descended as a dove at Jesus’ Baptism, remain on Jesus (vv. 32–34)? 
The answer is obvious and given (vv. 32-34).  Answer:  The man on whom you see the Spirit come down and remain is the one who will baptize with the Holy Spirit.
How does the Holy Spirit descend on you?  What part does the Holy Spirit play in your witness? Can you relax and allow the Spirit to witness through you or do you feel pressure to "do it right?" 
8.  Read Romans 10:14–15. Why are witnesses to Jesus important? 
The answer is obvious and given (vv 14-15).  It MAY require very little summarizing.  Answer:  people will not believe if they don’t hear and people will not hear if nobody acts as witness.
Is it important to you that there were eye-witnesses that saw and knew Jesus?  Why or why not?  There are churches and Christians in every town and on TV, how is it that everyone in the mainstream world has not heard the message of the Gospel?  Thinking about how information is dispersed today, what would have happened had there been no eye-witnesses to Jesus but only second or third hand witnesses or even rumor?


Friday, April 5, 2013

CONFIRMATION: What? A confirmation website?

About a week ago I posted about using Google Sites.  They are great sites and can be used for many different things but can be complicated to use for some people.  There are a number of free teacher websites available and I chose one to create a confirmation site to show you how it could be used.


I chose Weebly to create my sample confirmation class website. It's not just a blog but can contain a blog, a method for kids to send sermon responses, embed Google calendars, add a list of links and/or downloads, and many other pretty cool options.  Check out the example site I created to show you how cool it can be to have an education site like this one.  It's called:


If you have multiple classes you can create multiple sites per teacher. It's simple to use and a few good tutorials can be found on YouTube:

Weebly Basics Tutorial Part 1


Weebly Basics Tutorial Part 2




CONFIRMATION: Education Blogs for Kids

Creating a BLOG for your confirmation students is pretty easy these days and can create some great opportunities for discussion.  They can also be protected from the general public.  Student blogs can be a fantastic way to get kids to think about their faith outside of class.  They can be used in many ways but be very clear about your expectations.  Students must:
  • Post a comment regarding the topic that was discussed that week.  i.e. Give three reasons why...
  • Post questions regarding a topic for future discussion.  i.e. Come up with 2 questions regarding...
  • Respond to challenge questions via comments before or after a class session.  Be sure to remind them to tell why they answer one way or another or ask open ended questions.
  • Answer survey questions via comments.
  • Have a conversation about a specific topic with family members and blog about it. i.e. In 2 sentences each, tell what a person over 50 thinks about...
The cool thing about creating a blog for the students is that as they respond you can see what they're thinking and it can help shape some of your discussions.

There are two places I've found to create a blog for educational purposes:


One is by WordPress and it's called edublogs.org.  On this site you can require those who comment to be registered users, close the ability to comment after a specified number of days, comments must be held for moderation, administrator must approve comments.  In order to create a class and create a password for students and to adjust privacy settings to limit public access to the blog you need to pay a fee of $7.95 per month.

The other is kidblog.org and it's pretty simple to use and completely free.  It has the same options as edublog except limiting the days allowed to comment.  On each posting there is an option to make it password protected so that students need to have a password to comment (not just anybody can comment) and you can add students into the class and give them all a password so they can post. There are some easy to watch videos on how to get started on YouTube too.

Get those kids blogging about their faith!

Thursday, April 4, 2013

CONFIRMATION: Take it Outside the Classroom

Looking for new ways to get kids involved in confirmation topics outside the classroom? In regular education it's called a flipped classroom and it's when information is gathered outside of class to be discussed at a future time. These ideas can also be applied to middle and high school Bible studies. You know your curriculum better than anybody else and what issues you discuss but I'll give you a few examples of how each idea might work with a few different topics. Remember that these are activities that should take place PRIOR to the class session. The goal is to help students prepare.
  • Watch the news. Have discussions of world issues relating to the church, character, life choices, etc. While many of the news outlets seem to report the same stories, you might want to have them watch a specific network at a specific time.
  • Watch a specific movie. If you need some video suggestions you can find a few here by using the search box and searching: video. Whenever you have them watch a video you should provide a viewing guide so they don't miss a particular point.
  • Watch a specific TV Show. If you want to talk about bullying behavior and inappropriate humor, watch late night TV or an episode of Everybody Loves Raymond.  Also have them watch a show that supports Christianity. Can they find them? Choose an episode of a show that contradicts what the church teaches but seems okay. No big deal, right?
  • Read a BLOG.  Everybody blogs these days. If there's a blog in particular that you find would support or challenge their thoughts have them read it and talk to their parents about it before they come to class to talk to you. They can be blogs about Christianity, atheism, beliefs of different denominations or world views. How does this fit with what you believe?
  • Find examples in a magazine. Magazines are full of inappropriate messages and are often in support of lifestyles that go against Christianity. Let the kids discover how many they can find in one magazine. 
Nearly everything in our world points away from Christianity. Challenge them to find some things that support it.  Be sure that when you assign these things that you give them direction.  They need to know what they're looking for or when you start discussing they will not have noticed what you hoped they would. Remember... they're 12 and 13. Things that may seem obvious to you are not obvious to them. I've got more but I'll save them for later.  Stay tuned!

Tuesday, April 2, 2013

DISCIPLESHIP: Keep it Simple

There are a lot of discipleship programs out there:  Ten Steps to Making Great Disciples! Do we really need to buy a program to make disciples? Didn't God make it pretty simple? I'm pretty sure He said...
Then Jesus came to them and said, "All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age." (Matthew 28:18-20)
A lot of people may think that's too simple but there it is! What it doesn't say is how to get them in your church, how to stir their hearts and get them involved in the congregation, how to give them real faith,  how to make that faith stick, and how to get them to go out there and make disciples themselves. Hmmm... Do you think we might be taking the Holy Spirit's job and making it our own? Sometimes I think we do (with good intentions, of course). Perhaps we need to do what we're told and educate them better!  Maybe we should do our job and let the Spirit do the Spirit's job.

For Kids
  1. PRAY for the kids to REMAIN IN CHRIST and stay FAITHFUL to His Word.
  2. Provide opportunities for them to HEAR THE WORD and LEARN about it.
  3. Remember that kids need A LOT OF REPETITION to remember things.  
  4. Remember that YOUNG KIDS LEARN FROM STORIES and EMOTIONAL STIMULATION. Show and talk about the Bible stories and characters and talk about the emotions as well as the facts. Young kids have a tough time using words that describe emotions.
  5. Remember that OLDER KIDS LEARN FROM MENTAL and EMOTIONAL STIMULATION. Challenge them cognitively.  Ask hard questions that challenge their understanding and how to apply what they know to their lives, expect and wait for them to respond.
  6. Make sure they know it's okay to doubt, wonder, and ask questions about what they don't understand.
  7. Don't expect underdeveloped brains to have an understanding of mature faith and remember that it is the simplest (child-like) faith that is the strongest!
Most of all, KIDS LEAVE THE CHURCH because THEIR PARENTS have not made it important in their lives and we can EDUCATE ADULTS BETTER!

For Adults

  1. PRAY for the adults to REMAIN IN CHRIST and stay FAITHFUL to His Word.
  2. Provide opportunities for them to HEAR THE WORD and LEARN about it.
  3. Make sure your adult Bible studies are not lectures.  Adults also LEARN FROM MENTAL and EMOTIONAL STIMULATION. Challenge them cognitively. Ask hard questions that challenge their understanding and how to apply what they know to their lives, expect and wait for them to respond.  
  4. Make sure they know it's okay to doubt, wonder, and ask questions about what they don't understand.
  5. We have a tendency to ask questions that solely elicit information. Make sure ALL your adult Bible study leaders are trained in asking significant questions.



Monday, April 1, 2013

YOUTH: Worship Education

Think about what teenagers know about worship.  They think it's boring unless the music is cool.  But hey, they're kids.  Anything they don't want to be doing at any given moment is described as boring.  In our desperate attempt to engage kids in worship we've allowed them to think worship is all about the music and how worship makes them feel.  Many of our youth may never experience liturgical worship.  As a result they think it's bad, boring, unnecessary, and meaningless when they finally do experience it.  I'm not saying one or the other worship style is right or wrong but either way the kids need to be educated as to appropriate Lutheran worship.
Gathered Guests - 2nd edition
Please keep in mind that I personally believe that worship doesn't HAVE to come from the hymnal but it should still contain all the appropriate elements.  When our youth start making comments and decisions regarding worship they should be informed as to what they're actually talking about.  Given that, I started teaching the youth more about worship and created these documents using the listed resources.  You may get the books and create your own study or use my outline.

Documents

Meaningful WorshipResources
  • Meaningful Worship from CPH (Explains the meaning and importance of Lutheran Worship. It goes into much more detail than I did in my outline and includes discussion questions. I'm not sure of the quality of the discussion questions.)
  • Gathered Guests from CPH, 2nd edition (This book gives the biblical and theological answer to the question 'Why do we worship?' from a traditionally Lutheran perspective.)
  • Liturgy Explanation from The Lutheran Hymnal
  • Reflections on Contemporary Worship from the LCMS commission on worship
  • 10 Reasons Why We Use the Liturgy by the Rev. William Cwirla (posted at Higher Things)