Friday, August 21, 2015

EDUCATION: Great book for the wee ones!


Do You Know Who Jesus Is?

It's always hard to find a good resource for young kids, but I've found one! There a lot they can't understand about faith, but they CAN understand the stories and the story of Jesus is the best and most important one to share with them. Most rhyming books try so hard to rhyme and be clever that they use vocabulary far beyond that of a 2nd grader, however, the new booklet from the Lutheran Hour Ministries called Do You Know Who Jesus Is? is really good. I just read it and the illustrations are perfect for the age group, the rhyming is simple, and the vocabulary age appropriate. It also does a really nice job of telling a simple story. Just add a song like Jesus Loves Me and a prayer and it's an excellent devotion, Jesus Time class lesson, chapel talk or children's message.

This resource would be great for:
  • Christian Schools - devotion, Jesus Time class lesson, chapel talk
  • Christian School - new students gifts!!
  • Church Pew Bags for kids.
  • Children's Message - Break it into sections or take the time to read the whole thing.
  • New member or visitor gift for a family with young children.

Check out the preview and order here.

Wednesday, August 5, 2015

YOUNG ADULTS: We're off to see the professor!

It's getting to be that time of year when our lovely high school graduates will be excitedly skipping off to college, to be in charge of their own time. What does that mean? Well, depending on where they're going, they may not see the inside of a church for a while. After all, sleeping in on Sunday morning is an easy habit to start when you may have to look for a ride to a church. How do we keep them connected?

As I was thinking about this and trying hard to remember my college years (quite some time ago), I thought about how my feelings of "home" changed. At some point I started thinking of the campus as home. College is one of those experiences where you are a group of people in a similar somewhat stressful situation. so you develop strong bonds pretty quickly. You make new friends and it doesn't take long before you recognize that you don't have a lot to say to those friends you left behind, who went their way and made new friends too. The thing is, that's a normal process. Sending care packages is nice, but Our concern should not be to keep college students connected to their youth group friends, it should be that they find ways to continue to grow their faith.

To that end I recommend the following: 
  • Find out if there's a faith organization on campus. Contact their office and let them know the name of the youth who will matriculate there in the fall.
  • Find out if there's a Lutheran church near the campus and contact them as well, sharing the name of the student and asking that somebody reach out to see if the student needs a ride to church. Try using Student Connect, to help find a Christian faith community.
  • If possible, have the parents visit the church with their child before s/he moves into the dorm, apartment, etc. 
  • Get your youth in the habit of doing weekly online devotions either in a blog format (students can help write them) or on a Facebook page. The devotions can be sent out to phones, computers, or tablets. Make sure you ask a question and see if you can get some responses.
  •  Pray in written form for those students on those electronic pages as well. Create some memes of Bible verses and add their first names to them so they (high school and college youth) know when it's their turn. I found in my classroom that kids loved knowing I was praying for them when it was their turn. 
  • Remember that not going to church for a while at this age is normal. This is a transition time. They need to choose worship for themselves and come to a realization that they're doing it for them, not for others. At some point it needs to be a response to God, not your parents.
  • In October or November start asking them how they want to participate in a worship service when they get home. Start transitioning them into an adult role. Have them read scripture during the service, be a last minute usher, help with communion, etc. 
  • College students often have a long break over Christmas, get them involved with Christmas activities and have them substitute for Sunday School teachers on break. 
  • This is the big one. Have them talk to the high schoolers about what they've learned about themselves while away. As the frontal cortex of their brains continue to develop, it's important for them to continue thinking about and talking about their faith in connection to their life and life choices. Let it be simple question/answer, but have a few thoughtful questions prepared ahead of time to get things going. A few samples:
    • How is college different from high school? 
    • How are the people in college different from the people in high school?
    • What have you noticed about your faith in this time? Growing? Shrinking?
    • What do you miss the most?
    • Is it hard to find a church? :
    • Do you find yourself praying more or less? 
    • What's the best thing about college?
    • What's the hardest thing about college?
  • It would also be super cool if you could get a few together to talk to the adults too!! Just sayin...
The bottom line is that it will be rare for them to go off to college and remain close with their high school friends for too long. We need to find ways to start the transition to their new roles as young adults or just plain old adults like the rest of us. 

Tuesday, August 4, 2015

EDUCATION: Bible Maps for Kids



Pictures are incredibly important when teaching kids about foreign places. They need them to help connect the dots. I got really excited when I found this resource because it's fantastic for kids. It's a website called Kids Bible Maps and the use of their maps for educational purposes is free. There are maps of journeys, areas, people, and Bible stories. When teaching about a particular story, try to show kids where in the world this actually happened. This is not a make-believe land where stories occurred. Try to connect what happened then to real places. I'm showing maps for the 12 Tribes of Israel and Jesus' Ministry, but there are many, many more. Consider adding them to your Sunday School curriculum! 




Saturday, August 1, 2015

LUTHERAN SCHOOLS: Are we ready?

I said I wasn’t going to post on Lutheran schools again, and I really wasn’t until a few things happened: 1) the government chose to define marriage and family contrary to the Bible, 2) public schools will soon be integrating gender identity and sexual orientation courses into their health/sex education curriculum in Virginia, and 3) fetal organs are legally being harvested and sold in the United States of America and it seems to be okay with the general public. People need Lutheran schools!

So, I ask again. Are we ready? This may be the perfect time to save people from current or future liberal teaching in the public schools. The question is: As a church, will we be passive observers or active participants?

Synod or District Support

For many years the larger church body of the LCMS has sat in the stands and watched the game from the sidelines, cheering on the players and hoping they do well. They publish statistics and encouragingly talk about how well schools are doing and lauding their excellent academics, while enrollment numbers decrease to the point where most PreK-8 schools are growing down (creating daycares) because they can’t seem to recruit (and retain) older students.

So often in the church (and in schools) the answer is about more money. “We need more money!” “If we don’t raise more funds we will have to close!” But, money is not the problem, so money is not the answer. The problem is that many Lutheran schools were created to educate the children in the congregation that sponsors the school, and the days of people wanting to come to a Lutheran school simply because it is a Lutheran school, are long gone. Today, most Lutheran schools struggle to compete with traditional and charter public schools. They don’t even know where to begin and they have nowhere to turn for guidance. The time is ripe, my friends!!

Currently, the leadership of the church (synodical and/or district) have people in place to help schools deal with conflict and paperwork. Unfortunately, that’s not where the help is needed. Schools need someone who can help with:
  • Marketing. Lutheran schools fail miserably at this. They need to stop hiding their light under a bowl, hoping somebody will notice they are there. It’s time to put it on a stand so the light can shine before others and glorify our Father in heaven. Schools need help finding their strengths and learning how to market to them. They need to let people know what they teach in health and their Biblical/family values without pointing fingers or making negative remarks about other schools.
  • Raising Standards and Expectations. People are looking for schools that are excellent academically and a safe place where their children will thrive. Excellent schools have programs that embrace change and many Lutheran schools are so resistant to change that they don't even recognize that their standards have slipped!
  • Defining or Redefining board structure and leadership. Schools have different problems and needs than do churches. School boards need to be trained! (It hasn't been updated recently, but I freely share my Lutheran School Board Information Guide).
  • Separating school and church finances. A lot of people disagree with this one, but schools that cannot stand on their own financially should not depend on the church to bail them out. It is a recipe for disaster!
As was written to the church in Laodicea in Revelation 3:15-16: “I know your deeds, that you are neither cold nor hot. I wish you were either one or the other! So, because you are lukewarm—neither hot nor cold—I am about to spit you out of my mouth.”

So, I ask yet again. Are we ready? Will church leaders (okay, this part doesn’t include me as I am just a woman with a vision) throw money at the problem or provide real help? Are they ready to take advantage of the opportunity that God has provided for our schools to play a part in reaching out to a lost society or, as a church, have we become salt that has lost its saltiness? Will we sit in the stands, hoping somebody on the field will come up with a big play and be able to execute it on their own or will we join the team and provide the help they desperately need?