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.
  • 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!