Thursday, May 29, 2014

CONFIRMATION: Sermon Notes/Responses?

My guess is that pastors have been requiring sermon notes for confirmation for at least a hundred years. I know I remember doing them back in the 1970's! I know what pastors will say. Their goal is to get the kids to pay closer attention to the sermon and some will say that they want the kids to listen and actually think about what they hear or to help them pay attention to the whole service. I've seen people ask students any combination of the following:

  • the readings
  • who preached 
  • who served
  • the church season
  • the color of the paraments
  • special events during the service
  • the sermon text
  • 5 points from the sermon
  • the main idea of the sermon
  • a point of law and a point of gospel
  • a summary of the sermon
  • what made them think 
  • what they learned
  • any questions they have

Wow. I hope they write fast or remember well while they think. A fellow church worker recently asked my professional opinion about what should be included in a sermon note or response. Mind you, it's not that all pastor's sermons aren't amazing, insightful, and inspirational, but there are a few pieces of educational research that might help before I give my opinion:

  • A middle schooler's attention span is 10-12 minutes. 
  • Middle school students have not yet mastered the skill of note-taking. Their main point may not be yours which isn't necessarily a bad thing. 
  • If you want somebody to remember something longer than 30 seconds you have to repeat it. (Neurons wait for a repeat signal and "reset" if they don't get one.)
  • If you hear information you'll remember 10% of it 3 days later but if you add a picture you'll remember 65% of it. (Senses work best together.)

Here are a few other points to ponder:

  • I don't think I could find 5 good points in a sermon and write them down without missing a lot of other information. I would go with 3 points if you like the idea of them choosing points.
  • Most pastors don't use visual aids or slides during their sermon to highlight important points which means students are just listening (see a previous post on this) and their minds easily wander if something doesn't catch their eye (see above).
  • Pastors don't pause for kids to think and write. They just keep talking...

What to do?
As a professional educator here's my opinion. Aside from the date, title of the sermon and sermon text, and the Sunday in the church year (all can be done before the service starts) you should ask no more than 5 questions:

  • 2 that require them to write down something that strikes them about the sermon,
  • 2 that they can answer later that require them to think about what struck them,
  • 1 about what in the sermon made their parents think OR
  • 1 about finding law/gospel in the sermon.
The date, title of the sermon, etc. all connect with the sermon itself which makes it beneficial and a logical part of the sermon response. In my opinion, adding other details of the day seem busy-work. Personally I'd choose the parent question. If they know they have to discuss it they'll pay better attention. Keeps them on their toes!!

Wednesday, May 21, 2014

YOUTH: Tithing and Mite Boxes

In my experience, mite boxes are primarily used by the LWML (Lutheran Women's Missionary League) to raise funds for their many mission projects around the world. They are based on the story of the poor woman who gave all she had in Mark 12:41-43 and have been used in Women's Mission groups from the 1800's. That's pretty cool. The greatest thing about the LWML is that is takes the pennies, nickels, and dimes of thousands of women solely in support of mission. They have given hundreds of thousands of dollars to projects such as Missionary Retreat Home in Brazil ($60,000), Muslim outreach and education in Bangladesh ($75,000), and many more.

The youth can...
So here's the deal. Youth groups primarily raise money for themselves. They raise money to do what they want to do. Why not give them the opportunity to support something beyond themselves? Give them a mite box and have them save their change for a mission. Here are some options:
  • Participate in an LWML mission.
  • Find an overseas mission of their own.
  • Find a local mission (it may be exciting to help the people in Peru or Nigeria, but...)
    • Support a struggling local Lutheran/Christian school
    • Support a non-Christian inner city school.
    • Support a food bank, homeless shelter, etc. 
Remember:  the purpose of a mission/missionary is not just to provide stuff for people. It's to share the gospel! Give your money but share God's love as well.

I am not commanding you, but I want to test the sincerity of your love by comparing it with the earnestness of others. For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though he was rich, yet for your sake he became poor, so that you through his poverty might become rich. 2 Cor. 8:8-9

There are all different kinds of small boxes that can be used for something like this. There is a wooden box at Oriental Trading that costs $13.50 for 12 boxes. I also found a cardboard box that's already decorated (50 for $21.95) or plain that the kids can decorate (50 for $20.79) at You could always use LWML mite boxes but if you do it would only be right to give them the money you collect. 

Tuesday, May 20, 2014

LEADERSHIP: Want to send group texts?

One of the best ways to communicate with people these days is texting. You can get your information sent out to a lot of people without spending hours in conversation. One problem is that being able to text large groups depends on your phone. Some phones will send 10 texts and some just one at a time. Here are a few options to help with that problem. BE SURE to check all the details of any pay by the month service to make sure it's worth what you pay. Some of the details will depend on how many texts you send and whether or not you want people to be able to respond.

Groupme - FREE
Can be used with Twitter and Facebook

Wiggio - FREE
Video Tour available on site and  YouTube
Keep a shared calendar
Can send a poll to get input

SMS Monkey - FREE
Can send and receive
Works in conjunction with Gmail

Remind101 - FREE - Most commonly used by teachers.
All phone numbers are kept private
Schedule texts to be sent at a later date
Messages are one-way, so students & parents cannot reply
Have up to 10 separate groups/classes
Easy sign-up

Eztexting - Monthly Fee
Used by some really large congregations.
Group texting for ministries.
Organize groups
Schedule future texts
Sign-up widget available for your website, email, and Facebook
Free Trial

Friday, May 2, 2014

EDUCATION: Martin Luther's Prayers in Sunday School Classrooms

There are two particularly wonderful prayers that will help everybody start and end the day if they know about them. They are prayers we've long stopped using and sharing; Martin Luther's Morning and Evening Prayers. One way to help kids become more familiar with them is to simply put posters of them on the walls of your youth room and classrooms. When kids get bored they look around the room so you might as well have them look at something educational and faith building.

They are simple to design on your own or you can turn what I have created into an 18"x24" poster for $2 each. Go to my posters page and once you've ordered them I'll send pdf's and you can have them printed at a place like Short Run Posters for about $4 each. I've found the pdf works best at Short Run Posters, it's a good deal, and the posters are a good quality.