Wednesday, February 26, 2014

HS YOUTH: Create your own "TED Talks" for teens!

If you've never heard of TED Talks it's time you have. They are people who have been asked to give a talk on a specific topic because they've been inspiring in some way. If you want to hear a pretty cool idea of many different talks on a subject listen to this NPR podcast:  The Next Greatest Generation. It's about 50 minutes long but is really interesting. This one brought up questions I would love teens and twenties to think about such as: Are you motivated by conviction or recognition? How much is technology shaping the generation or how are the behavior and impulses of the generation shaping the technology? Imagine what happens when entertainment is determined by impulsive hormonal teenagers whose brains haven't finished developing yet?

The problem is that most TED Talks are not Christian or about Christian principles. Granted, a few are, but they're not really geared for teens. So here's my idea. Why not let your amazing teens create their own "TED" Talks to motivate each other! Call them Teen Faith Talks (or something more creative). You can put them on your church website for easy access and make sure everything that's uploaded as been adult approved. Everyone know how to upload a video but if you're not sure how to podcast try this website: How Stuff Works.

Things to think about:
  • Do you want a video or a podcast?
  • They should be no longer than 10-15 minutes. 
  • Nothing goes up without approval.
  • It's about teens inspiring teens... not adults inspiring teens.
Topic Ideas (remember to make these all about FAITH):
  • Faith in the Life of a Teenager - what inspires you?
  • Facing Bullies
  • What do you believe about...
  • Facing Fears
  • Maybe somebody is going through a tough time and wants to inspire others about surviving a terrible illness, divorce, a death in the family, etc. 
  • Surviving Difficult Days
  • Let the kids create devotions!
Think about what a great witness it will be for kids to be sharing their faith with other kids, inspiring each other with their own faith stories!!  I LOVE THIS IDEA!


Wednesday, February 19, 2014

CONFIRMATION: Instead of a Graduation....

I'm asked this question on a regular basis:  Why do people treat 8th grade confirmation like it's graduation? My response is always the same. Why do YOU treat it like it's graduation? I'm not going to reiterate my previous post on the topic but I do have a few new thoughts and suggestions.

Confirmation Used to Include First Communion 
First Communion is a big deal and that is why there were white robes and red carnations involved. They signify our sins becoming white as snow as we join in the body and blood of Christ at the Lord's table. When many churches moved first communion to an earlier age, the white robes and red carnations did not follow. Should a congregation have reconsidered the idea of confirming the faith, what that means, and how it should be done when they made that change?

Confirming your Faith at 13 Seems Premature 
Years ago many kids were completing their formal education and entering the workforce after the 8th grade. Today, with respect to maturity, adolescence ends at about age 26 and cognitively the brain is fully developed at about that time as well. Knowing this should we not have reassessed the program long ago to assess the cognitive and maturity issues?

My suggestions then are:

  • Do away with the 8th grade confirmation graduation-like ceremony and have a different type of ceremony that celebrates what the kids have learned. 
  • Don't treat it like the student now knows everything about God, the church, and their faith. Ask them what they want to know more about, what they want to continue to learn about, or what puzzles them the most about God, Jesus, and the Bible. Do not ask them what they want to do for Christ with their lives. They're 13!!!!
  • Do away with the tradition of public witnessing by answering questions in front of the congregation. First, it's tradition and there can be a new tradition. Second, public speaking is a huge fear for most people much less for 13 year olds. To alleviate this stress pastors give them questions and answers to memorize. Is the goal to have them recite what they've been told? There are so many other ways students can confirm what they believe and share what they have learned. (Stay tuned for a future posting on this topic.) 
  • Add future opportunities through high school where students have opportunities to witness to the congregation and/or opportunities for other adults in the congregation to witness to them. At what age do we stop confirming our faith and sharing what we've learned?

Tuesday, February 18, 2014

CONFIRMATION: Holding Students Accountable

I was talking to a pastor today and he said he would like to require more of his confirmation students but “they won’t do it. I have no leverage.” My response to him was, “But it's your job to hold them accountable.” And it is. Those who teach confirmation are sharing the most important information those kids will learn in their lifetime. It is YOUR RESPONSIBILITY TO HOLD THEM ACCOUNTABLE! If they don’t think you expect them to do the work then they won’t do it. Why should they? So the question of the day is how do you hold your confirmation students accountable for what they need to know?
  • You don’t have to confirm anyone. That is huge leverage. What is the point of having confirmation classes? This is information we want students to understand about their God and their faith and if they don’t show that they understand it then why would you want to confirm them? The key to this actually being leverage is to have a meeting with the parents and let them know this right up front and to remind them of it as things don't go well. Having and holding students to expectations should never make you feel bad. 
  • The parents themselves. If the parents don’t find confirmation or the work expected to be confirmed valuable then why is the kid there in the first place? Most of the time the parents don’t even know the student isn’t doing their work so let them know. If they’re supposed to be reading and don’t have in their reading guide make a big deal of it.  If they haven’t handed it in twice in a row then it’s time to let the parents know.  Current educational research shows 1) parent involvement in what an adolescent is learning has a positive impact on their success, and 2) homework increases both achievement and commitment of students and parents as it requires an investment in time and effort. Again, if you don't consider it important, neither will they. If it’s easier you can easily create a checklist or spreadsheet to keep track of who is doing what.
  • Rewards can come in many forms.
    • A certificate of perfect memory work given out in front of the congregation.
    • An end of year (or mid year) memory work competition with some good prizes.
    • A Bible reading quiz bowl.
    • A nice prize from the church for any and all students who complete all the Bible reading guides.
    • A Bible Reading Challenge certificate.
    • Prize for every Bible reading punch card completed.
    • Give monthly food rewards for those who have both memory and reading requirements done.
    • Verbal praise for good or interesting answers can change a students attitude completely toward the Bible readings. Let the kids know you read their answers by going through them and commenting on their good responses. You don't need to comment on every student every week but make sure you don't always praise the same students over and over or leave anybody out for too long.
Seriously, I keep hearing pastors and church leaders comment on how everyone is worried about people not knowing what they believe and not having any Bible knowledge. Don't lower the standard to the student. Raise the student to the standard!!


Sunday, February 16, 2014

EASTER: Easter Breakfast/Egg Hunt Balloon Wreath

Plastic Easter Egg Wreath
(link to Tip Junkie website)

I saw this plastic egg wreath on Pinterest and, while it's very adorable, at first I thought it was made of balloons. Then I thought about what a great idea that would be for an Easter Breakfast or an Easter egg hunt. There are so many things you can do with it:
  • Put candy inside each balloon and let the little ones each pop their balloon for a treat. 
  • Put clues inside so the kids have to find a treat. Let each color be for a different grade level so the older kids have more difficult clues.
  • Put appropriate Bible verses inside and have the kids get together to read them to those having breakfast.
  • Make it into a game where kids have to put all the clues together to solve a bigger Bible puzzle. They can work in color groups and the first group to come up with the whole Bible verse or answer the question asked by the clues wins a prize. (Everyone can win as they finish but the first group get the biggest prize.)
  • Have a few super prizes in the balloons (coupons) for kids to win a Bible or Christian music CD of some kind.
I'm sure you can do some of those things with the plastic easter eggs as well but in order to get them into the cute wreath you'd have to glue them together and balloons are so much fun for kids to pop!

Friday, February 14, 2014

LENT: Mosaic Cross Ideas

Quilt at
Mayer Lutheran H.S.
I was walking through Mayer Lutheran High School (Mayer, MN) and saw a beautiful quilted cross hanging on the wall that reminded me of a mosaic. It's about 5 feet tall and it stopped me in my tracks!

Creating a ceramic mosaic that would hang on the wall would be stunning anywhere in any church but they can get pretty heavy. There are also smaller versions like the blue one shown from Mosaic Designs by Carla and Angela. buin any sanctuary or parish hall but there are so many other ideas that be done. Check out these ideas:

BIG PROJECT
  • Create a large mosaic that can hang on the wall. Check out designs at Mosaic Designs by Carla and Angela.  
Mosaic Designs
by Carla and Angela

FUNDRAISING PROJECT
  • Have the youth create some stepping stone mosaics of Christian symbols out of pebbles and sell them to the congregation.  You can check out some stone examples at Merriment Design or do a Google image search for mosaic stepping stones.  
  • Any group in the church, ladies, youth, etc. can create mosaic stepping stones and have a silent auction. 
  • People can buy mosaic stepping stones for families to take home or to add to the church garden. If necessary a plaque can be created to list donors. 

EASY FOR KIDS LENT PROJECT
  • Create a large multi-colored construction paper cross, cut it up and let the kids write Bible verses on the different pieces of paper each week. Every week throughout Lent on Wednesdays or Sundays let the kids put the pieces up and by the time Easter Sunday comes along the cross will be full of wonderful Bible verses written by kids. How fun is that? Of course, you can do this at any time throughout the year, it doesn't have to be Lent.

Friday, February 7, 2014

HS YOUTH: The LOVE Quiz!


Having a Valentine's Day party? St. Valentine's Day is a very commercial holiday that has an extremely tenuous connection to the church with the many different references to a St. Valentine throughout the ages. In our society we have become obsessed with romantic love and sex to the point where it is literally unreal. Both men and women are inundated with society's expectations of who they should be to their partners and how their personal relationships should look to the world. The message kids get from society about sex is that it has nothing to do with one special relationship with another person. It's just something else to do on a Friday night. It has nothing to do with the gift God gave us that makes our relationship with one special partner a very special relationship between two people and God.

If you're going to have a Valentine's Day party, instead of putting little pink and red hearts all over the place and walking around giving cards and flowers to people you're supposed to show your love to every day of the week or pushing romance on teenagers, why not make it a special day to talk about God's plan for intimate love? It can be hard to bring up these issues so I created THE LOVE QUIZ. Kids have many questions about love and relationships that they are afraid to ask. I have also included answers in case leaders need a jumping off place though my answers are certainly not the only or the most correct answers.

Here are are few suggestions:

  • Do it as a game show. Have groups or teams work together on the answers and see what they come up with.
  • Teenagers don't like to open up about a lot of this with their parents around. DO NOT fall into the mistake of thinking they do or will. They will say what their parent wants to hear.
  • Have an anonymous question jar out so that kids can add questions before or during the discussion.
  • Feel free to talk openly about the differences between men and women with humor. It can ease the tension.
  • Let kids bring up ANYTHING. Don't be afraid to discuss their real concerns.
  • Don't just tell them what to think. DISCUSS why one viewpoint might be smarter than another.
  • Press students for reasons why they believe what they do about sex and relationships.
  • DON'T JUDGE THEM ON ANY PAST BEHAVIOR!

The world is not going to stop telling them lies about sex and relationships. Start telling them the truth!

Sunday, February 2, 2014

WORSHIP: Pre-Service Slideshow Announcements

I had to be at church early today and as I was waiting for the prelude to begin I noticed that they had a slide show going of announcements similar to those in a movie theater before the previews begin. What a good idea! They were simple announcements about times and places of things going on throughout the week and where regular Bible studies were held during the education hour. Here are some ideas of the kinds of slides that might be shown for your congregation:
  • Where Sunday school children should meet for opening and adults should meet for different Bible studies.
  • Bible studies that are held throughout the week.
  • Important board of directors information.
  • Ministry opportunities (women's, men's, youth).
  • Special upcoming services.
  • Upcoming sermon themes.
  • Fundraising events.
  • Service opportunities.
You don't need to put the entire bulletin in slides because that would be too many but highlight a few important announcements of things coming up. I suggest doing 6 to 10 slides that rotate so there aren't so many that people only see them once. It might turn out to be a very helpful way for visitors to know where Sunday school and Bible studies meet and that they're welcome to join.