Sunday, December 28, 2014

CHRISTMAS: The 12 Days of Christmas Means What?

I recently learned that the 12 Days of Christmas was written in England to help kids remember parts of confirmation when the Catholic faith was banned. I wasn't sure so I looked it up and thought it worthy to share. It went like this:

On the first day of Christmas my true love (God) gave to me

  • a partridge in a pear tree (Jesus to be on the cross)
  • two turtle doves (the 2 testaments of God - Old and New)
  • three french hens (the 3 theological virtues - Faith, Hope, and Love)
  • four calling birds (the 4 Gospels - Matthew, Mark, Luke, John)
  • five golden rings (the 5 books of the Pentateuch - Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, and Deuteronomy)
  • six geese a-laying (the 6 days of creation)
  • seven swans a-swimming (the 7 gifts of the Holy Spirit - prophecy, ministry, teaching, exhortation, giving, leading, and compassion)
  • eight maids a-milking (the 8 beatitudes)
  • nine ladies dancing (the 9 fruits of the spirit - love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control)
  • ten lords a-leaping (the 10 Commandments)
  • eleven pipers piping (the 11 faithful disciples)
  • twelve drummers drumming (the 12 points of doctrine in the Apostles Creed)
Now, lore is full of stories like this so it may or may not be true, but it is clever none-the-less, don't you think?

Tuesday, December 23, 2014

NEW YEAR: Daily Faith Talk

People are always asking for good devotional books they can use with their kids, which I can appreciate, however, I'm going to go in a different direction. First, I recommend they read the Bible (though I wouldn't trudge through all the major or minor prophets). I recommend The Story for Kids or The Story for Children, depending on the age of the kids because it's the Bible and not a devotional.

Second, I'm going in a different direction here because I think connecting kids and their growing faith to their lives doesn't necessarily happen through a devotion written by somebody with the best of intentions. I think it's important to encourage and equip parents to take the time to talk about faith with their kids within the context of their daily lives. The problem is that people don't know how to start the discussion or don't want to take the time to do it every day/night. The thing is, it doesn't have to be a formal conversation. It could be as simple as a dinner table discussion or a bedtime check-in. If people need discussion starters they can try something like this: 
  1. How was your day? Tell me about it.
  2. Anything interesting happen in school today? 
  3. Anything really good/bad/funny happen today?  
  4. Can you think of anything from the Bible that would fit your life or help today? 
  5. Did you see God in the world today? Where? (Caution parents not to teach kids to look for signs as to what to do in life, but to see how God used them or others or showed Himself to them after the fact.)
  6. God won't always make your life easy, but He is always there for you. 
  7. Pray. Get the kids involved in talking to God without a prayer written by the author of a book. It's never a bad thing to teach kids Luther's morning or evening prayers, the Lord's Prayer, and/or any other prayer they can commit to memory that will help them throughout their lives.
I don't mind books for some things (after all, I wrote one with my students for Advent), but for regular daily life, I prefer to train parents not to depend on them... or to only depend on one... the Bible. 

Thursday, December 18, 2014

CONFIRMATION: Images of Faith

I love supplemental curricula. One of the reasons I've never developed a confirmation curriculum is because I never teach anything directly as it's written. I haven't found a single curriculum that I find adequate both educationally as a teacher and in content. Most of the pastors I speak with would agree as they seem to create their own as well, which is why I wrote my book The Art of Teaching Confirmation. Whatever you use, please teach it well.

Images of FaithThat said, there's a new supplemental curriculum out there through the CUENet (Concordia University Education Network) called Images of Faith. The problems I find with much of the confirmation curricula out there is that

  1. it feels like it's written by people who haven't been in a classroom in 25 years (or ever) and are out of touch with children that age,
  2. has too much reading for both the student and the teacher (as do many put out by the LCMS), and
  3. are big on telling people what to say to students (scripting) and low on challenging, thought-provoking questions that make students think. 

Nobody is interested in reading a dissertation on the First Commandment before teaching it to 13 year old kids, especially if they're pastors who have been well-educated. This curriculum appears to have the same problem as the teacher notes for the First Commandment are 15 pages long with 7 of those pages student notes. That's quite a bit of work for a supplemental curriculum and seriously, no 12-14 year old is going to read all that. What this course does have, however, are some fantastic images.

What I would recommend as a professional educator is, if you intend to use this supplemental curriculum that has a number of pages of required reading, have the kids read the information at home before they get to class so that you can have them interact with the material in many and various ways in class.  Also, don't forget that a picture is worth a thousand words when it comes to memory so, whether or not you use this curriculum or any other, use images!