Thursday, July 31, 2014

YOUTH: What's your philosophy?

What's the philosophy of youth ministry at your church? We all want our teenagers to learn and grow in faith and I've seen it all. There are churches that have little activity and churches that have so many scheduled activities that being a part of the youth group becomes expensive and more of a country club experience than anything else. I've seen strong and well developed Bible study experiences and those who just sit down with kids to talk about whatever. So, my question is, what's the philosophy of youth ministry at your church?

Youth ministry is a balance. Teenagers, in high school, are all about being social but that doesn't mean they aren't searching for something deeper at church. They need the truth of the gospel and yearn for a deeper knowledge of their God. They do not want watered down theology and constant praise songs.

It's important to sit down and think about what your youth ministry program is all about. What do you, as a church, value enough to provide that for your youth? I suggest every congregation consider what I call the four pillars of youth ministry.

  • Spiritual Growth - providing opportunities for quality Bible study.
  • Leadership Training - by allowing students to be leaders.
  • Service - both inside and outside the congregation.
  • Fellowship - opportunities for students to have fellowship and grow together.

You can print off a copy of my philosophy of youth ministry here.

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

LEADERSHIP: Cool Idea to Decorate the Youth Room

Christian Statements

Sometimes I visit churches and the youth rooms are a little scary. I've seen the walls painted black or other dark colors or there are poorly painted murals on them because people wanted to provide a space the teenagers could make "their own." I posted an idea on how to get around that unsightly problem previously. Check out that posting here. For now, let's just leave it at wanting them to feel comfortable within boundaries, because first and foremost it is the church, the house of God. So, we give them choices, however, limited choices.

Vinyl Wall Expression, Whatever is True  -
Christian Book Store
With the amazing growth of technology, there is another really cool way to decorate youth room or Sunday School classroom walls easily using vinyl wall decals. They're removable and can change the feel of any plain classroom with little effort. They can cost as little as $20 and at some places you can choose a color or even design your own decal. These are so SUPER cool that I might even put a few in my classroom! The only caution I might share is that there is a lot of coffee cup theology out there and while many cool and popular quotes may seem Biblical, there's a good chance they aren't. You might want to make sure you're advertising the right things on the walls of your church and let that story be told through actual Scripture as opposed to cute or wise quips.

If you do a Google search for scripture vinyl wall decals you'll see a lot of options at a wide variety of prices. Check these out!

Christian Book Store
Vinyl Unlimited
Christian Statements - These have a variety of colors!
Wall Praise - You can create your own designs here!
A Great Impression
Trading Phrases
Christian Vinyl Wall Art

A Great Impression

Sunday, July 27, 2014


As you all know, I have a bit of a passion for improving how we educate in the church and especially for confirmation; so much so that I wrote a book about it! The book, The Art of Teaching Confirmation can be found on Amazon. It can best be described by those who have reviewed it so elegantly that I cannot help but repeatedly use their words. 
Link to Amazon.
“If there is one task in the church which causes consternation among pastors, students and parents, it is confirmation. Pastors, according to St. Paul, are supposed to be apt to teach (1 Tim 3:2). But the art of teaching confirmation is one learned through experience, through trial and error. Pastors are well-trained in theology, but they may be less knowledgeable about the many areas which surround that necessary teaching task. Laura Langhoff brings to the topic insight to the pitfalls, joys and opportunities found in the experience of teaching the foundations of the Christian faith especially to the young student. With almost thirty years of experience with youth and teaching, Langhoff takes on the First Article issues of delivering the faith to students of a certain age. The topics of development, assessment, learning techniques, homework, expectations and strategies are articulated and approached with expertise so that Christ Jesus is clearly taught and the Christian faith is heard, read, marked, learned, and inwardly digested. Pastors, whether new or well-seasoned, will not be disappointed by Ms. Langhoff’s teaching gift to them.  A good read it is and will challenge pastors to reevaluate their own teaching approaches and sharpen their skills and knowledge.”
– Pastor Shawn L. Kumm, Zion Evangelical Lutheran Church, Laramie, Wyoming 
"Laura does something that should have happened years ago - in an accessible and useful way - talks education psychology in regard to Confirmation instruction, in real world language. It's absolutely necessary that a variety of audiences pick this book up to hone skills, review concepts and theories, and be encouraged in a vital task of the Church - teaching the faith. So, Pastors, DCEs, other Ministers of the Gospel, and lay teachers, check this out today!"
– Matt Harwell, DCE, Good Shepherd Lutheran Church, Glencoe, Minnesota

Saturday, July 26, 2014

LEADERSHIP: FREE Vector graphics I can actually use!!

I am constantly looking for graphics that I can use without getting sued for copyright and I finally found a website that gives me all the information I need on a graphic. It's called Pixabay. Here's what I like about it. In the bottom right panel it tells you:

  • When it was uploaded.
  • How many times it's been used.
  • Its size.
  • Its source website.

When you download it you will be given sizing options so you no longer will download something that's too small for your print job and/or small enough if you just want to use it online.

I always like to share resources!

Monday, July 21, 2014

HS YOUTH: The travel THANK YOU poster!

Summer is the season of mission trips. Some around the world and some around the country. Sometimes when youth groups travel they need a way to say thank you to various people or groups who have assisted them whether it be for those who have fed, housed, or hosted in another way. Perhaps the owner of a swimming pool allowed them to swim and shower after a long day working in a field, a church allowed them to sleep in their basement for a night or a week, a group of volunteers fed them dinner for a week or a day, or to simply thank people for providing the opportunity to serve. One way I like to say "THANK YOU!" to those folks is by leaving a signed poster similar to the one shown. I create all my posters in PowerPoint and have them printed on 18" x 24" poster paper.

With this design, you may notice that there's room in the top left corner to write the name of the host church, group, or business and there's plenty of room on the rest of the poster for kids to write personal messages of thanks.

If you create your own poster you can have a bunch of them printed at Short Run Posters for less than $3 each. I like this idea because it's something that can be put on the wall in a church to remind them of how they shared God's love with strangers. They've ended up in a lot of church kitchens for the ladies who spend so much of their time preparing food.

Sunday, July 13, 2014

CONFIRMATION: Time to Differentiate!

Ugh! No matter how often I talk to pastors, eventually they always say, "Parents should be the teachers of confirmation." Really? Because parents will tell you they don't feel equipped to do that so you'll need to have a training program for them. The latest trend is for parents to co-teach, be available to curb discipline issues, or to take the course with their kids. These are fine ideas but I think they are unnecessary.

Here are a few of my thoughts on parental participation.

  • Freedom to Question - Students will not feel free to respond as often or as honestly when their parents are in class. Pastors have told me that they do but I'm telling you that they won't. How do I know this? Because more often than not, the minute their parents are out of earshot they ask me questions. There are just some things they won't say in front of their parents. 
  • Discipline Issues - Some pastors have problems with discipline and think having parents involved will help. That may be but it sends a message that the pastor can't handle the situation and there's no reason pastors can't learn to handle a few headstrong kids when necessary. 
  • Who is this class for? - Pastors have told me that they find that parents respond more openly and quickly than kids which helps get the discussion going. They also said they often end up talking more to the parents than the kids... but confirmation is primarily intended as a learning opportunity for the kids, not the parents.
  • Relearning Opportunity for Parents - I understand that many parents like the opportunity to relearn the material and that pastors want parents to have an understanding of what their kids are learning but having a class for the parents at the same time and giving them family discussion questions as homework would be a better idea. 
  • Developmental Issues - Parents are at a completely different developmental level than are middle school students and the discussions need to be focused differently because of that. It's similar to teaching a 1st grader and a 5th grader in the same class. 
  • Lack of Parent Involvement - Pastors are getting parents involved because they see a lack of involvement but the answer to that does not have to be that parents become the only teachers of the faith that kids have. 

Martin Luther

Martin Luther wrote what he did in the 16th century because he lived in the 16th century and that was the state of things at that time. We do not live in the 16th century and who's to say that had he lived now that his thoughts would not be different? I've searched the Bible for a verse that says parents should be the only teachers of the faith for their children and found nothing. Why then, are a few phrases in Luther's Small Catechism that were written in 1529 what pastors cling too as if this is the final word? For more on Luther's thoughts see a previous post.

Answer:  Time to Differentiate!

It is time, my friends. It's time to give ourselves permission to differentiate between teaching the faith and teaching confirmation. My parents taught me the faith but my pastor taught me in confirmation. We can and should equip and encourage parents to teach their children the faith via conversation, devotions, prayer, reading the Bible, etc., and we can and should do a better job at that, but they do not have to be the sole educators of their children. So confirmation educators - step it up! If you're not sure how then feel free to contact me or buy my book The Art of Teaching Confirmation which will be available soon at

Friday, July 11, 2014

EDUCATION: Storying or Story Telling

For years people had no written Bibles to read and shared the stories of Abraham, Noah, Samson, and the rest by telling them generation after generation. Telling stories and talking about them is a fantastic tool for teaching young people about the Bible. Yes, they can read them or have them read to them, but can they tell them back? The process of retelling a story solidifies it in the memory. Here are the basics for how to use storytelling in a Bible study or for a children's message. Don't let people have Bibles open so that they really listen and pay attention.

Storytelling Steps

Step 1:  Tell the story.  Retell the story. (Be sure to keep God's Word separate from any personal interpretation you might have.)

Step 2:  Have students (adults or children) tell the story. If it's a small class people can volunteer to tell it, they can tell it to each other, or you can start and have different people continue it until the end. Don't be afraid to stop and correct or add details if the story becomes distorted or if important items are left out. This isn't about telling a more exciting version like in a movie. It's about telling God's story.

Questions For After The Story

  • What is your interpretation of the story?  (context)
  • What do you like about the story?
  • What don’t you like about the story?  Or What makes you uncomfortable about it?
  • What do we learn about people?
  • What do we learn about God?
    • His interaction with us.
    • His relationship with us.
    • His communication with us.
    • His promises to us.
  • How do we apply this to our lives?
    • What does God want you to know?
    • What does He want you to believe?
    • What is God teaching you?
    • What is He calling you to do or start doing?
    • What is He calling you to repent of or stop doing?

Children's Messages

If you have a bunch of very young children who come up for a children's message try adding some movement to go with the story. For this purpose you may want to tell the story once and then have them retell it with you. (Couldn't hurt to have the adults help by doing it from their seats as well....)