Saturday, March 29, 2014

EDUCATION: Food For A Week Simulation

For I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me.  Matthew 25:35

ELCA World Hunger has a pretty cool simulation called Food For A Week. "You've lost your job, have dwindling savings, and $60 to feed your family of 5 for a week. What's in your grocery bag?" The program includes a detailed leader's guide that includes a description, materials, tips for planning, running the event, and discussion questions with a Biblical connection. Everything you'll need is on the website.

This simulation is cool! It helps kids understand the cost of food, encourages them to get smart about community resources, and provides an excellent opportunity to think about their community. I suggest planning a service event trip to the local food shelf, soup kitchen, Loaves & Fishes, etc.

Many kids have no idea what impoverished people go though. We've created suburban communities where they aren't a visible part of our lives so we don't have to think about them. It's so much easier to think about the people in Africa or Peru than those in the neighborhoods we don't visit. Show them why they're doing a food drive.  

Thursday, March 27, 2014

FUNDRAISING: Do you take credit cards? YES!

I know a LOT of churches would love to be able to use credit cards for many things.  Well, here's your chance. Using SQUARE is simple. All you need is a Smartphone or an iPad to complete a transaction. Sign up and they will send you the card reading device for free! Go!!

FUNDRAISING: Buying Stock in the Future/Youth

When it comes to fundraising for trips or large events I like to do as many things outside the congregation that I can so that the congregation don't feel like they are constantly being hit-up for money by the youth selling one thing after another, especially if you have a smaller congregation. You don't want people to stop giving to the church at large in order to give to the youth.

Some churches have given up on fundraising in the traditional sense altogether. They don't want to sell things to people that they don't need so have turned to simply selling youth stock "certificates."

Here's how it works:
  • Have several different envelopes representing gift amounts. Each envelope contains a trading card of a kid trying to raise money including photo, name, grade, past trips, and the reason they're raising the money.
  • Donors are asked to pray for the kid(s) they receive in their envelope, and they'll get a thank-you card from while we're on or soon after the trip!
  • Choose your stock values. Don't start too low.  Try: $20, $50, $75, $100, $150, $250, $500, and $1000. People can always choose 2 envelopes if they want. (I would choose $20 before $25 because people may just have a $20 in their wallet and be willing to hand it over.)
  • Let the youth approach the congregation (not an adult leader or DCE) with an initial appeal and to describe how the stock certificates work. They need to take the responsibility and realize that they are literally asking people to support them. It's a good learning experience.
  • Figure out how much each child needs to raise and how much they need to come up with on their own. Another important learning experience is for them to have to pay for some of their own trip.
  • Don't forget to add in the cost of adult chaperones unless the congregation will cover them. Adult leaders should never have to pay for their own trip.
  • Don't forget to have a tax receipt in the envelope too!
This is a real opportunity for the kids to articulate why they are asking the congregation to support their trip or event. Why is it important to go out and share their faith? Why do they need to go to Peru on a mission trip? If they're sharing their faith, what are they going to say to the people in Peru about what they believe as they serve?  It's another opportunity for them to publicly confirm their faith.  

Monday, March 24, 2014

LENT: HS Youth Hosted Seder Meal

I posted before on how to have a Christian Seder meal and provided links for a script etc. and then today I had an amazing idea that would be a great experience for youth and adults. Why not turn this tradition into an educational experience for the youth by having them host the meal for the congregation for a suggested free will offering?
Passover, white background Stock Photo - 661486
They could:
  • Have a sign-up sheet to decide if one or many meals are needed.
  • Learn about the history of the event.
  • Find an appropriate leader of the ceremony.
  • Provide appropriate music.
  • Have Old Testament and Seder trivia on the table for while people wait.
A Seder meal is a great experience. It connects us with our roots and reminds us of our connection with the people of the Old Testament. I know a lot of youth groups would rather serve Easter breakfast but what a truly meaningful learning and leadership experience this would be!

Saturday, March 22, 2014


I just discovered a new plan to give back to the community. It's called Amazon Smile and it's really quite simple. Amazon will donate 0.5% of the price of eligible items to the charity of your choice.

Sign Up
To sign your organization up as a choice go to AmazonSmile Org then spread the word. Almost everybody shops at Amazon at one point or another so why not sign up your church or youth group.

Check out the link to find out more and visit the FAQ section if you have more questions from there. Then tell everyone in your congregation to choose your charity and shop!

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

LEADERSHIP: H.S. Youth, Loneliness and Social Media

Do you sleep with your phone? Your kids do!

I just watched an amazing TED Talk about our dependency on our connection to social media and how it's changing our psyche. It's about substituting a connection for a conversation. Later I saw this video created by a group called Mobiledia which condenses it. The 4 minute video is impactful but the 20 minute TED Talk is what it's really about because it explains in greater detail and gives suggestions about how to change things to make lives or life more meaningful through personal connection. How will this affect our and our children's relationship to God and/or our need for Him?

You will be blown away and immediately know that the one thing we need to do in congregations everywhere is get people into face-to-face conversations to develop trust and intimacy with each other. We need to provide them with opportunities to be alone with God. The problem isn't the existence of technology or social media. The problem is our obsession with it and substituting it for real connection through face-to-face conversation. "Technology appeals to us most where we are most vulnerable. We're lonely but afraid of intimacy. It gives us the illusion of companionship without the demands of friendship."

This video (below) is called The Innovation of Loneliness and is the condensed version of the above TED Talk.

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

CONFIRMATION: The Bible Reading Plan!!

“Biblical literacy is neither a current reality nor a goal in the U.S.” (The Barna Group)

What most Christians believe about the Bible and their faith is completely misguided.  The problem stems from
  1. Not really knowing what the Bible says.  Christians are creating their own version of Christianity based on what they want to believe is true as opposed to what the Bible teaches.  Barna’s research suggests that this practice takes effect in the early teenage years and that by the time most kids reach the age of 14 they think they know everything about the Bible and don’t need it anymore.  
  2. Reading out of context.  One of the things missing from confirmation education is the expectation to read the Bible in more than short sections or specifically chosen verses.  Barna says, “Bible reading has become the religious equivalent of sound-bite journalism.”  If it fits on a coffee cup and they agree with it then they accept it. As a result of this practice students go through confirmation without understanding the fundamental themes and have little interest in deepening their knowledge of the Bible or its author. 
To answer these problems I have created a BIBLE READING PLAN with age appropriate reading guides but unfortunately I can't give it away.  (You can purchase it here.)

The goal of the middle school Bible reading plan for the Old Testament is to give the kids an overall picture of the story of God’s Old Testament people.  (Middle School Old Testament Sample)

The goal of the high school Bible reading plan is to get the kids thinking about what they've read now that they are familiar with the story of God’s Old Testament people.  (High School Old Testament Sample.)

Don't worry, the New Testament is in development right now!  

Monday, March 3, 2014

EDUCATION: Memorizing Scripture in the Car

These days everybody knows that the best time to really connect with your kids is when you're in the car on your way somewhere so why not use that time to a good end:  MEMORIZE SCRIPTURE! I know I could use a brush up on it myself.

Try this:
Get a clip of some kind (a simple clothespin or large binder clip will work) and every week write a new Bible verse on an index card. Write it so that it's easy to read and clip it to the visor in the car or put it in the glove box. Whenever you take a ride pull the verse off the clip and have the kids say it a few times while you ride. Be sure to keep the cards in the car and go back to old ones on occasion. The more you do that the further into the memory the verses will be stored. 

EDUCATION: A Parent's Role

A parent's role in their child's faith formation is really very simple but sometimes they just don't realize how simple it is and at some point it needs to be said out loud (or put it in the newsletter):

Dear Parents,

Please understand that you are the primary role model for your children's faith and Christian education. They are learning by the choices you make and the priorities you set far more than the words that you say. Do you go to church?  Do you attend Bible study? Do you pray? Do you read the Bible? Do you regularly choose social or sporting events over church?

  • If you want your children to value Bible study they have to see that you do. Let them know you read the Bible and have a prayer life of your own. Don't just drop them off at Sunday school and go for donuts.
  • Your faith life needs to exist outside of the faith life of your children. If it's valuable to you it will be valuable to them.
  • Your children learn more than you think by attending what you may think is a stuffy, old, boring church service. Even things that aren't "entertaining" can be meaningful. 
  • You children learn how to be a part of the church community by watching you interact and serve as a part of the community.
  • Talk about the faith history of your family and your personal faith history with your children so they have an understanding of what it means beyond themselves. Tell them what you believe, why you believe it, and how you see God working in your life.

Remember that the phrase "the apple doesn't fall far from the tree" came from somewhere! Want them to really get it? Live it!