Tuesday, July 28, 2015

CONFIRMATION: For Those with Learning Challenges

At one time or another you may run across somebody in your congregation that isn't able to go through the regular confirmation program due to learning challenges, or somebody who needs extra help. The question becomes, what is this person able to grasp regarding Holy Communion and confirmation? To learn more about specific learning disabilities, try the Learning Disabilities Association of America. Also, the University of California, Berkeley, has a great website with tips for teaching students with specific disorders or challenges including autism spectrum disorders, ADHD, learning disabilities, and more. Since everyone is different and nobody comes with instructions, you may need to try a few things.

First, be sure to check with
  • The parents, who will have tons of suggestions for motivation and behavior, and
  • Their teachers, who will be able to give excellent and specific advice that will apply to individual students' issues. 
Some students with learning challenges may need one-on-one instruction. Others may need to wait a few years, and still others may simply need some basic adjustments such as:
  • Breaking the material into smaller steps 
  • Begin by reviewing the last lesson (all good teachers do this)
  • Asking shorter, more pointed questions
  • Asking them to repeat or explain what you've said more often
  • Being patient and giving extra time or practice
  • Using as many graphics or pictures as possible
  • Simplifying complicated vocabulary
  • Choosing what is or isn't absolutely necessary for them to understand.
Remember that all things do not always work for all students, and when there are learning challenges, this can be magnified. Also, many students with learning challenges are very bright in one way or another. Try to tap into that area as much as possible.


Concordia Publishing House
Building on the Rock was written by Bethesda Lutheran Communities. There are 4 books that cost $25 each. 

"This curriculum offers a structure to support the First Communion process and Confirmation instruction for people with intellectual and developmental disabilities. Building on the Rock is designed to offer people with developmental disabilities the opportunity to become a participating member of the church."

Northwestern Publishing House

There is also a set that includes: The Simplified Catechism ($12.50), The Simplified Catechism Bible Stories ($12.50), and The Simplified Catechism Teacher's Guide ($36.00). Together these cost $48.80 on sale.  

"This simplified version of Luther's Small Catechism helps pastors, teachers, and parents teach God's Word to children with low vocabulary levels or various learning disabilities. It prepares the student for communicant membership and helps them comprehend the importance of catechism. Includes lessons based on the six chief parts of Luther's Small Catechism, each featuring easy-to-read type and colorful, full-page illustrations."

Wednesday, July 22, 2015

EDUCATION: Dealing with Addiction

I recently came across a TedTalk by Johann Hari called Everything you think you know about addiction is wrong. It has some points that would be a fantastic discussion starter for anybody over the age of 15, as addiction usually begins in the teenage years when we start seeing ourselves in the broader context of society. The video itself is primarily about social issues and does not connect to God, but I included that in my discussion questions. I didn't include a bunch of Bible verses about treating your body as a temple or trusting in God because, honestly, I wanted them to look at the problem from an angle other than "don't do this because it makes God unhappy" or "God loves you so don't turn to alcohol" or even "your body is a temple, don't trash it." This is not about drugs and alcohol. It's about addiction. The reality is that we are in a society that is lonely and disconnected from God and so we turn to addictions of shopping, food, alcohol, gambling, cell phones, internet, pornography, drugs, etc. He even makes a point about how nervous people look when they are in a room and somebody expects them to turn their phones off for 2 hours. It's time to start getting to the root of the problem.

You can watch the video below or go to the TedEd site, but here are a few of the main points:

  • People are addicted to far more things than just drugs or alcohol.
  • Addiction is about disconnection and loneliness on a basic human level.
  • Addiction is about the cage in which we find ourselves that we call life.
  • Addiction is about not being able to be present in our own lives. 
  • We have traded stuff for connection. 
  • It's our nature as human beings to need to bond. 

Tuesday, July 21, 2015

CONFIRMATION: Need a culminating project idea?

I'm always looking for creative ways to have kids share what they believe. I've had them do "Journey of Faith" posters. I had each student design one to be printed as an 18' x 24" size. In Powerpoint or as a Google doc slide, the slide should be 8.2" x 11" and saved as a pdf to upload well to Short Run Posters. This site will print them for $3 each. Below is a sample done by a former student of mine. I have to say, parents LOVED these!

I've also found a really simple and FREE site, Stupeflix, that will allow them (or you) to create a video for free. It's as simple as adding photos and text. They'll even let you use their music, or upload a song of your own. I did a quick sample. Of course, I would probably be clear about:
  • What they need to include.
  • How many slides they need.
  • How many words they should use.
  • What music they may include.
Here is a sample of requirements that may help you out.

Check mine out. I used the music provided by the program.

Friday, July 17, 2015

VBS: It's time for a CHANGE!

I've posted before on Vacation Bible School:
But this post is different. The previous postings were all about working within the current VBS model. Today, as the Queen of Change and a proponent of always being brave enough to try something new, I propose that it's TIME FOR A CHANGE for VBS. What? Change?!?! NO WAY!?! We've always done it this way! I know, I know, but hear me out.

Many, many, many years have passed since Vacation Bible School was named Vacation Bible School, and I have no idea why they named it that. Kids don't love school. They like it and learn to enjoy some aspects of it because they have to be there, but reality is reality and if given a choice, they would not choose school. So why call it Vacation Bible SCHOOL? What is VBS anyway? Sure, there are Bible stories or studies, but for the most part there are games, songs, snacks, and crafts. Why not call it Bible CAMP? Sure sounds more fun that Bible school.

And speaking of camp, why not have any number of camps to serve a number of populations throughout the summer? If you really want to reach out to your community, try having different camps throughout the summer.

  • Kids Camp (formerly known as VBS) - They usually have a fun and catchy name that changes every year.
  • Joy Camp - For those with disabilities. Not every congregation may be able to do something like this, but if you can, I'm sure it would be a great blessing.
  • Sage Camp - For the older set. This would be great if you could provide transportation for some people in assisted living as well as those in your congregation. Give them a special time-out from their regular lives. Sing songs, do crafts, and have Bible studies. Want to give them a really great time? Let them sing songs from their youth!
  • Spiritual Gifts Camp - Learn about personal spiritual gifts, but take it one or two steps further and work with others in the community to find places to use your gifts outside the church building and throughout the community. Whatever the gift, teach them how to incorporate it into their daily lives. (Try Uniquely You!)
  • Dads & Sons (or Moms & Daughters) Camp - Incorporate sharing beliefs into the activities. It is incredibly important for parents to be able to casually talk about what they believe and why they believe it with their children, and the most important role model for a child is their same sex parent.
  • What do I believe and why? Teen Camp - In this wacky world where things don't make sense and people are attacking Christian beliefs from all sides, knowing how to communicate what do you believe and why you believe it is incredibly important. You don't have to defend it or convince the world that you are right, you just need to know for yourself and be there if/when somebody needs you to share it. 
  • Parenting Teenagers Camp - How many people in your congregation wouldn't love this? Find a good program that gives good advice. It could be set up so that it's a lot of fun!

Pick a topic and turn it into a camp!

Pick a population in your community, find something that will help them, and turn it into a camp!

Monday, July 13, 2015

EDUCATION: Interactive Bible Maps

When teaching about history, maps are a necessary resource for both children and adults. Maps should be used any time a teacher talks about an unfamiliar area whether it be for a sermon, adult or children's Bible class. They help paint a picture of where in the world things really happened and the distances traveled. iBible gives a nice view of where people traveled, both Old and New Testaments. I have done a print-screen shot of a couple of them so you can get a good idea. You can see that sometimes they reference the journey in the map and sometimes they do it beside the map.

You can always use the Bible overlays in the GloBible too. For the resource it provides, it is a very reasonable price at less than $40. I used this Bible many times during the week in my 7th/8th grade religion class. 

I've also found a resource that is more expensive (about $70), but is pretty cool. It's the Accordance Bible Atlas. Here's a video that helps understand what the software can do.

Whatever resource you choose, please remember that we think in pictures, so I encourage you to use handouts to help students (both adults and children) connect what they see on the screen. MAPS are fantastic resources for congregational education!

Here are a few other sites that might be helpful when trying to paint a picture of Bible times. Check them out!

Bible History Online - Ancient images that can be used for non-commercial purposes. This website is somewhat of a challenge to use.
Free Bible Images - Images easily found in story line format.
Visual Bible Alive - Images for non-commercial use are free.

Sunday, July 12, 2015

CONFIRMATION: Six Chief Parts Posters

I am a huge believer in educational posters. Around the classroom, posters give students something valuable to look at when they take a mental or brain break. When kids get bored they look around the room and it never hurts to give them something to look at that relates to what they're learning. I haven't seen a lot of really good educational resources for the church, so am slowly creating more and more. I've created posters for the church year, posters of Martin Luther's morning and evening prayers, and now have created posters of the Six Chief Parts of the catechism.

You can buy the pdf files from me (see posters page) for $2 each ($12) and have 18"x24" posters professionally printed. Once I get your order I'll send the pdf's and my recommended printer is Short Run Posters. They'll print them for about $4 each. It's a good deal, and the posters are a good quality.

Thursday, July 9, 2015

EDUCATION: Creating a Video Timeline - Journeys of Paul

Below you'll see my latest project... a timeline. It was pretty easy to make once I found what I wanted to put in it. I created one video myself (Paul's First Journey) to see how difficult it might be. It took me a day, but now that I know what I'm doing, it should be easier the next time. As I update the spreadsheet, it automatically updates the timeline, wherever it is.

If you like  and have an idea to create your own, Timeline JS has simple directions. If I could, I would make creating things like this my job!

What might be included with a presentation like this is a worksheet for students to follow the journey and questions, and a map.to complete the trip too. It would be great if they could use the same map for all of the journeys to see how many people he reached. Remember that a picture is worth a thousand words as far as the brain is concerned.

I'd love to know what you think of a resource like this and how it might be useful for you.