Sunday, May 19, 2013

YOUNG ADULTS: Congrats on Graduating - Now what?

Yesterday I posted on a great video for young adults/college graduates so today I want to say something about grads in general. It's another year of graduations and graduation open houses and it's all very exciting but it's kind of like a wedding. Party today because tomorrow life changes. Some will be moving into a college dorm next year and they may or may not attend a Christian college or university and even if they do it doesn't mean they'll be spiritually fed. Others will hit the pavement and start looking for a job. Some may even include a move to another city or state. What can you do to make sure your young graduates remain connected to a church?

If they're moving on to college:
  • Know where they're going.
  • Keep in touch as they transition.
  • Contact a few congregations near the school and ask them to reach out.
  • Get the names of a few people so they don't feel so awkward when visiting.
  • Use social media to keep in touch throughout their college experience.
If they're graduating college: 
  • If they're moving find out where.
  • Keep in touch as they transition.
  • Contact a few congregations in the area, let them know somebody new is moving to the neighborhood and ask them to reach out. 
  • If they're not moving then reach out and help make them a part of the regular congregation by getting them involved in something right away.
  • Give them a role in the congregation by putting them on a committee or board. (I don't recommend they be youth counselors for a few more years or they may have difficulty transitioning into an adult role.) 
If you are in a congregation in a city/town where there is a college:
  • Make connections at the school.
  • Get permission to put up fliers to post church information.
  • If possible, find out about any Christian clubs or organizations on campus and connect with them.
  • Have a specifically chosen contact person for them for when they visit. 
  • Let them know you can provide transportation if necessary.
Every congregation is a part of the bigger church and we to need work together and communicate with each other to make sure this age group is not left behind.

Saturday, May 18, 2013

YOUNG ADULT: Video - This is Our Time

This would be great for anyone but if you work with college age kids or recent graduates this is a great video for them to watch. It's a little slow but the ultimate message is fantastic. It's basically a reminder that you shouldn't measure your life by the things that you do but by the person you are in Christ.

The basic plot is about a small group of friends who graduate from college and how they transition into regular life. Some careers take off right away and some don't, some struggle in their personal lives and some don't, and some plans just don't seem to pan out. Then a tragedy strikes and they struggle to try to make sense of it.

Another great message is shown in how these young people have someone in their lives that they can go to for good, sincere, spiritually appropriate advice. People are called to do different things and have different tasks according to God's plan for them, which is not about what they will do or how successful they will be but is about them becoming who God wants them to be.  It's a great message for people that age at this time!!

Friday, May 17, 2013

CONFIRMATION: Honoree Dinner - Switch it up!

In its general notes, the Lutheran Service Book (2006) says “Confirmation is a custom of the church that links the catechumens to their Baptism, celebrates the reception of the Lord’s Word among them and, in cases where the candidates have not yet communed, welcomes them to the Lord’s Table.” Burreson (2009) defines the purpose of confirmation as supporting and strengthening a person’s sacramental life of faith.

Let's be honest for a minute and remember that in 6th or 7th grade, when confirmation instruction begins, these kids are about 12 years old and the middle school brain is just learning to discern and understand that the world is a very complex place. They have no idea what a sacramental life of faith is all about... but they're about to start. That's one of many reasons why I suggest that it's time to switch it up and have a confirmation dinner at the beginning of the process instead of the end.

Celebrate that they are leaving "Sunday School" behind and are entering the more adult world of Bible Study and that starts with confirmation. Instead of treating it like the end of Sunday School, treat it as a rite of passage into the process of becoming an adult in the church. You might consider it a "welcome to the company, you start in the mail room" party. Nobody starts at the top.

At this dinner:
  • Provide them with an outline of what they'll be studying and why each topic is important (briefly!).
  • Let them know they'll learn how to express their faith and share what they know about God through the Bible or how to become disciples.
  • Give them their catechism.
  • Give them a new study Bible and let them know they'll be writing in it.
  • Give them their reading list and confirmation reflection journal.  (If you're not sure how to use it see my previous post.) 
As long as you're switching this up why not develop a faith development plan that starts with confirmation, continues through high school, and takes them into adulthood. It's so much easier to keep people on the road when there's a road.

Celebrate the beginning, not the end!

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

SUMMER: Summer Reading List

Product Details
A story about a girl
who learns to deal with
physical and emotional
pain with the help of
a lost dog.

Schools are always creating reading lists for summer because practicing reading improves comprehension, vocabulary, and word flow. Why not have it improve faith as well? Put some positive thoughts and thoughts of God into those little heads all summer long and pick some great Christian books for kids to read.  Christian Book has a list for all grade levels or Best Children's Books has a ton of lists of great Christian books listed by age group, including high school. There's also a search box for Amazon on the page. A Catholic Home School mom created a list I really like.

Pick one you like and put a link on your church website for parents or send it out in the next newsletter!

Friday, May 10, 2013

SUMMER: Book Club!

Ever think of having a different kind of Summer Sunday School for youth and adults and have a Book Club?  Put the adults and the youth together and give them a good book to read. If you publish the reading schedule people who are gone could continue reading and come to a discussion when they're in town. Books written by men and not God provide fantastic fodder for discussion because we can disagree with them!

You may have some great books in mind but how cool would it be to get youth and adults together to talk about some of the books by C.S. Lewis such as Mere Christianity, The Screwtape Letters, and Surprised by Joy? You could try nearly anything by Max Lucado or I might also suggest a fiction story such as The Shack by William Young that is a little out there but was very popular and is full of discussion opportunities. If you want something edgy you could try Not a Fan by Kyle Idleman. It talks about how Jesus is not interested in having fans but wants lifelong followers. The question will be whether or not it's the type of book that lay-people are interested in reading.

Summer is a great opportunity to do something completely different and as a teacher I LOVE having conversations with teenagers about faith and life where adults and kids can learn from each other in a safe environment. There is no better opportunity to get people of many generations together than to have them all reading the same book but you could also do:

  • Just the youth.
  • Men's or ladies' summer book club.
  • Parenting book club.
  • Teen boys and men.
  • Teen girls and women.

My suggestions:

  • Choose a book that everybody is interested in reading. You may even get really bold, give them three choices and let them vote on what they're interested. 
  • Be sure the youth feel comfortable and respected enough to share and don't let adults lecture them for their thoughts or opinions.
  • Find a facilitator and not a professor.
  • Before you choose a book, read it. Don't just take somebody else's opinion about it.

Sunday, May 5, 2013

LEADERSHIP: Annual Education Survey - JUST DO IT!

I am a HUGE fan of data driven decision making. It's a term we use in education to provide reasons for why we make particular educational choices. I firmly believe that if you want to know what people are interested in knowing more about, what ministries they prefer or don't prefer to participate in, and what they think about the current or most recent educational choices, you should ask. I believe that leading sheep where they don't want to go gets two results: 1) the shepherd ends up pushing from behind, which is not leading, and/or 2) the shepherd ends up standing in a field by himself. While there are always things the leadership is responsible to decide, people like choices and they like to know they are heard. If people are not participating in Christian education classes it's also wise for leadership to find out why and not just guess.

To that end I strongly recommend that the leadership create an annual survey and the end of each year and with technology what it is now it's certainly not hard. Here are a few options:
  • Survey Monkey - you can create a 10 question survey with 100 responses for free or pay a fee for something more. To see the limited options for free surveys look here.
  • Kwik Surveys - you can create free surveys but options are limited if you don't pay a fee. To see the limited options for free surveys look here.
  • Google Form in Google Drive - This product may be a little less ostentatious than the other two but just as effective and easy to use. A survey of any length can be created and added to a website and responses will automatically be added to a spreadsheet in your Google Drive. You need to create a Google account and start your DRIVE. Click on CREATE, FORM. I caution you to plan your survey by creating a flow chart before you start creating it so the answers are kept in order in the spreadsheet.  
The survey can be as simple or as complicated as you want it to be. Check out my sample survey created in Google forms. Instead of wondering why people aren't attending or why they go to one Bible study over another, find out! If you want to know how to copy my form so you can edit it for your use, please let me know and I'll tell you how.

Saturday, May 4, 2013

EDUCATION: Games for Memorizing Scripture

Sometimes it can be difficult for kids to memorize Bible verses but there are ways to make it easier for them to practice.  One way that works extremely well is through songs. See a previous post on memorizing Scripture through songs. Games also work well.

If you want to add scripture memorizing to your Sunday School curriculum for the K-6 kids, if memory work doesn't come with the curriculum, here are 53 verses that might be a place to start. Of course, pastors may have a few that they prefer but any scripture committed to memory is a good thing.

Here are a few ideas to help kids practice their memory work:

  • Sparkle - Students stand in a circle and each says a word in the verse.  At the end of the verse the last student says the reference, "SPARKLE", and sits down. The game continues until the last person has to say the verse alone. The cool thing about a game like this is that even if the kids are no longer in the circle, the verse goes through their heads as many times as those still playing.
  • Memory Cards - write one word on each card and have students put the cards in the right order.
  • Memory Work Bingo - When you get a bunch of them into their heads you can play a quick game of Bingo.  Put the references on the Bingo cards and as you say the verse they put the button or marker on the card with the appropriate reference.
  • iMemorize is a pretty cool site that has 3 games to help students memorize quotes. They can enter their scripture verse and the app can be used on any iPad or iPhone too.