Saturday, November 23, 2013

PARENTS: Artificial Maturity? Artificial Faith?

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

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

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

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

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

Sunday, November 17, 2013

CHRISTMAS: Christmas Story Character Masks!

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

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

Saturday, November 16, 2013

LEADERSHIP: Effective Use of Social Media

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

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

Friday, November 15, 2013

CONFIRMATION: Learning & Remembering Confirmation/Bible Terms

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

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

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

CHRISTMAS: More Chrismon* Ornaments!

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

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

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

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

HS YOUTH: Teen Challenge

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

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