Friday, December 16, 2016

H.S. YOUTH: Resource for a Reality Check!

With all the crazy stuff going around these days and with the internet passing off truth and fiction as truth, it's really difficult for kids to determine reality. The best resource I've seen so far are the Prager U videos. I think they are a fantastic warm-up for any discussion. Check out the few videos below and you will probably agree. I really like the way they explain things.

Thursday, November 17, 2016

EDUCATION: A Creation-centered Science Curriculum

Thanks to my husband who went to a Lutheran school in the 70's telling me how much he loved his science book, I've stumbled upon a science curriculum that Christian home-schools and parochial schools should check out as everything in it is from a Creation perspective. It's the Rod and Staff Science program and covers 2nd through 10th grades.

Check it out and if nothing else, this curriculum would be a great resource for Christian school teachers as an example of how to teach all of science from a creation-centered perspective. God created this world for us and we are seeking to understand it better.

Grade 2 Science WorkbookGrade 2:  Patterns of Nature
Science, at this level, mainly involves identification. Such subjects as seasons, seeds, wildflowers, weeds, trees, mammals, insects, songbirds, and the celestial bodies are introduced on the child's level.

Grade 3: God's Protected World
Units cover water; solids, liquids, gasses; the seasons; heat and cold; care of the body; animals; farming, machines, stewardship. The theme of the book is God's care of man and nature. The Bible theme identifies scientific facts that relate to the story of Noah.

Grade 4:  God's Inspiring World
Students will study weather, animal life, star constellations, light, electricity, plant life. Health and safety are addressed in a unit on human disease and in some lessons such as the lesson on the eye. References from the Book of Job help establish the theme of the book.

Grade 5 Science "GodGrade 5:  God's Wonderful World
Students will learn the basics of orderly, scientific study. God's wonderful world is best understood by careful observation and by consistent testing of one's conclusions. They will observe God's power and control, study and classify various forms of life, and become acquainted with practical applications of everyday science as well as the value of conserving God-given resources and the value of observing safety. References from the Book of Psalms help establish the theme of the book.

Grade 6:  God's Inhabited World
Students will learn about the solar system, energy, food chains, electricity and magnetism, body systems and health, and the earth with its support of life. The book theme, "God's Inhabited World," strongly emphasizes how God designed the earth for life and designed life for the earth. The spiritual tone is drawn from the Book of Isaiah, and the values of good stewardship are emphasized.

Grade 7:  God's Orderly World
The book theme, "God's Orderly World," frequently shows the orderliness in the laws and designs of God's Creation. Another goal is to help the student understand the error of false science and how to guard against losing Biblical faith.

Grade 8:  God's Orderly World
Students learn the laws of energy and motion as well as integumentary, skeletal, muscular, circulatory, lymphatic, and excretory systems, nutrition and digestion. They also learn about backyard stargazing and deep-space objects, heat energy; weather and weather forecasting; the nervous system, the senses, and the mind; health, safety, and basic first-aid procedures.

Grades 9 & 10:  God's Orderly World
Students will learn the principles of light, including color, optics, and the eye, work and machines, energy and engines, principles and applications of chemistry, electricity, magnetism, generators, motors, circuits, electronics, and electrical safety as well as an introduction to reproduction and heredity.

Closer look at God's Orderly World, Grade 7.

"God's Orderly World frequently shows the orderliness in the laws and designs of God's Creation. Another goal is to help the student understand the error of false science and how to guard against losing Biblical faith."

Unit 1: What Is Science?
An Orderly World
A Discoverable World
The Scientific Method
A Scientific Attitude
Practical Use of Science
A Dependable World
Why Study Science?
Limitations of Science
Unit 1 Review

Unit 2: Life on the Earth
God, the Source of All Life
Characteristics of Life
Cells of Life
The Cell Membrane
The Protoplasm
The Cytoplasm
The Nucleus
Function of Cells
Multitudes of Living Things
Survey of the Monera and Protista Kingdoms
Survey of the Fungi Kingdom
Survey of the Plant Kingdom
Spore-producing Plants
Seed-producing Plants
Survey of the Animal Kingdom
Unit 2 Review
First Quarter Review: Units 1-2

Unit 3: Natural Resources of the Earth
The Earth, Shaped by God
Ecology and the Balance of Life
The Atmosphere
Mineral and Fuel Resources
Nonrenewable and Renewable Resources
Stewardship of Natural Resources
Biblical Principles of Good Stewardship
Practical Conservation of Natural Resources
Unit 3 Review

Unit 4: Sound
Sound and Faith
Sources of Sound
The Transmission of Sound
The Speed of Sound
Differences in Sound
The Volume of Sound
The Pitch of Sound
The Quality of Sound
The Regularity of Sound
The Larynx, a Versatile Sound Producer
The Ear, a Masterpiece of Creation
Parts of the Ear
Care of the Ears
Using the Ears Wisely 
Unit 4 Review
Second Quarter Review: Units 1-4

Unit 5: Fire
Use and Control of Fire
Fire, a Chemical Reaction
Requirements for Burning
Fighting Fires
Fire Types and Fire Extinguishers
Dealing With Fire Emergencies
Preventing Fires
Common Causes of Accidental Fires
Unit 5 Review

Unit 6: The Force of Gravity
Gravity, a Mysterious Force
The Bible and Gravity
The Orbits of Heavenly Bodies
The Earth's Gravity
Gravity and Water Pressure
Buoyant Force
Gravity and Atmospheric Pressure
Lifting Liquids With Atmospheric Pressure
Creating a Partial Vacuum
Lighter-than-air Balloons
Unit 6 Review
Third Quarter Review: Units 1-6

Unit 7: Diseases
The Body, a Gift From God
When Sickness Comes
A Doctor's Instruments
Infectious Diseases
Diseases Caused by Germs
Common Disease Parasites
Defenses Against Infectious Diseases
Sanitary Living
Personal Hygiene
Sanitation in Other Areas
Other Kinds of Diseases
Degenerative Diseases
Nutrition-related Diseases
Congenital and Heriditary Diseases
A Biblical View of Medicine
Unit 7 Review

Unit 8: Agriculture
The Importance of Farming
The Farmer as a Steward
Stewardship of Soil
Care of the Soil
Stewardship of Crops
Stewardship of Livestock
Farming as an Occupation
Unit 8 Review
Final Review: Units 1-8

Thursday, October 13, 2016

ADVENT: Cookie Outreach Invitation

I posted before about an Advent neighborhood outreach postcard. It's intended to drop off at homes around everybody's neighborhood or the neighborhood around the church. This one is different. It's not an invitation to church, it's (I hope) an invitation to Jesus or a seed, a reminder that Jesus, the tiny baby boy whose birth we celebrate every year, was born for a reason. To that end I added another verse to the usual Christmas card verse:
For Christ also suffered once for sins, the righteous for the unrighteous, to bring you to God. He was put to death in the body but made alive in the Spirit.  (1 Peter 3:18)

People often share cookies with their neighbors and friends so why not add a postcard intended to share what you believe in a simple way. I couldn't find a commercial Christmas card that said what I wanted to say so I created one that's a little more direct than the usual trite, overused phrase, "Jesus is the reason for the season." I finally gave up and went where I should have gone in the first place, the Bible. God will speak for us. Here's what I came up with. Feel free to copy them or create one of your own!

Monday, October 3, 2016

MEN'S MINISTRY: "You're welcome at my fire anytime."

"You're welcome at my fire anytime." is a line from the movie, The Man From Snowy River. It's a cowboy phrase because being welcome at a campfire is a statement of friendship and trust.

Everybody needs to connect. Women have been doing it for years in different ways in the church. Men have a little more trouble. After all, most don't quilt, they're usually not joining MOPS, and they don't really reach out or make friends in the same way women do. I posted before about a men's helping ministry, but this is something different. It's about filling them up and providing a safe place for them to get support and accountability with other men... around a fire. It's called a FIRESIDE CHAT and no women or children are welcome. For some reason sitting partially in the dark and smoking cigars around a fire is relaxing. I don't know, maybe it has something to do with the Holy Spirit appearing as fire on Pentecost in Acts 2.

My husband has a weekly fireside chat in our backyard (if you have a fire pit at your church you could start one there too) where he invites his older sons (over 18), any men from our congregation, and any neighbor or man with which he comes in contact and is compelled to invite. Men are welcome to invite other friends, colleagues, family members, etc. as well. If the group gets too big, another group is started. It's a simple process and there is one firm rule: no alcohol. The goal is not to fix each other's problems, but to share the joys and burdens of life and encourage each other in Christ. Everything said at the fire stays at the fire.

The basic agenda looks like this (no alcohol, but cigars are welcome):
  • Warm-up time to shoot the breeze and punch each other in the shoulder.
  • Remind each other of the confidentiality of the group.
  • Ask the questions.
    • What is God doing in your life?
    • Are you stuck anywhere?
    • What are you doing about it?
  • Prayer (anytime for anything - it makes God a part of the group)
Anyone can pray or request prayer at any time during the fireside chat. Sometimes someone will drop a bomb and need the group to speak the truth in love and immediately pray. Remember that you are expected to have each other's back. Speak the truth IN LOVE.

When men trust who they're talking to and open up, they receive an incredible amount of support and accountability and this becomes a powerfully uplifting part of their week. They grow closer to God, they become better leaders of their family, and better husbands and fathers. This is the kind of personal ministry that changes lives and helps men be strong, confident, faithful, God-loving men.

If you'd like to know more about this program, please don't hesitate to contact me.

Friday, September 23, 2016

CONFIRMATION: Excellent Bible History Resource!

1936 Concordia Publishing House
My husband, a former LCMS pastor, turned me on to a great book he used when he was younger. It's called Advanced Bible History in the Words of Holy Scripture with Illustrations, Maps, and Notes and it was published in 1936 by Concordia Publishing House. This book is fantastic! The way it's broken down is good for students and, contrary to questions we ask today, the review questions it asks are wonderfully challenging. They really make kids think about the reading!

Sadly, this book is no longer in print. I've seen the updated version, but haven't had the opportunity to examine all of it closely. It would appear that the majority of the changes were not in the choices of Bible readings, but in language and the questions asked. Sometimes today we are so busy trying to force big connections that we miss the smaller ones within the reading. We're in such a hurry for kids to get the "big picture" that we don't take the time to find out if they understand what they've just read.

Examples of Today's Questions 
(notice how they don't relate directly to the reading at hand)
  • Study Hebrews 11:3 and question 105 of Luther's Small Catechism. What attitudes should Christians have regarding the theory of evolution? (The answer is way too obvious in the given references.)
  • Why did the Son of God come into the world (1 John 3:8)? (The answer is way too obvious in the given passage.)
  • What are some ways God shows love for His people? (Applies to nearly every Bible reading.)

Examples of 1936 Questions 
(notice how they relate directly to the reading at hand)
  • Classify the parables of Christ according to the lessons they were to teach. 
  • Write or relate a short biography of Moses. 
  • Show how the promises of God were fulfilled in this section. 
  • Name some of the judges of Israel and state what they did for Israel.
  • What caused the repeated downfall of the Israelites?
As you can see from the examples, public schools are not the only place where we have "dumbed down" education and expectations of learning. If you need a good reference book for Confirmation or Bible literacy, this is the one. There are only a few copies that can be found used on Amazon or you can contact Concordia Publishing House and see if they have any in a closet somewhere. 

In the meantime, check out my Bible Reading Guide and Workbook for the Old Testament (Middle School and High School). You can get a pdf version and make photocopies if you don't want the actual workbooks. I'm almost done with the Gospels and am working as fast as I can. Keep your expectations up! Teaching is the most important thing you do! 

Wednesday, September 7, 2016

LUTHERAN SCHOOLS: What's your philosophy?

A few weeks ago I was interviewed for a position in a K-8 Lutheran school (I'm licensed in H.S. math so my Lutheran school options are limited) and was asked the question I dread. What is the purpose of Lutheran schools? Oh no. (My heart beat faster.) There it is. The standard or expected answer is OUTREACH. Lutheran schools exist to share the Gospel of Jesus. So, when people ask about your school is that what you share first? How is that working for you? Do you have a waiting list? Are people talking about and trying to get into your school because of that? Hmm, from what I've seen, probably not. But why not?

Probably because when people are looking for a good school they're looking for a good school. That's their first priority and why I disagree with this purpose. It's not that I think Lutheran schools should be quiet about the gospel, but if a Christ-centered education is a priority then why aren't, at the very least, all Lutheran parents trying to get into Lutheran schools?

Here's the situation. Public schools aren't all bad. Some charter schools are pretty good. People choose schools for their excellent academics and EXCELLENT private schools have waiting lists whether they're Christian or not.

"But our Lutheran school is excellent!" 

How do you know? How do people outside the church know? How are you marketing your school? What are you doing to make it excellent? How are you getting that message out? What are you doing to shake things up?

Seriously, it's not a slap to God to have the philosophy, "Come for an education, leave with so much more!" But you can't just say it, you have to do it. What is an excellent academic school?

  • One that can show improvement in student achievement.
  • One that can hold its own when compared to the top private schools in your state.
  • One that assesses using the same tools as top private schools in your state. 
  • One that has excellent character and behavior standards.
  • One that does not cave to parental pressure without due process.
  • One that has a school board and not a church board. 
  • One that has a qualified leader with vision and a plan.
  • One that has ONE grade per classroom. 
  • One that has licensed teachers. 
  • One that has high standards for its teachers and holds them to a standard.

In the past I've made it clear that I am a great proponent of high standards in Lutheran education. I don't like mediocrity in education as a whole and I see Lutheran schools settle for it all too often. An excellent school is not a school that has a lot of money. It's a school that has high academic and behavior standards whether it's faith based or not and it brings in students! The question is... how do you know if that's you? And are you willing to find out?  Are you or is your school

  • afraid to change?
  • unable to see yourself clearly?
  • too stuck in the past to move into the future? 
  • afraid to compare your academics to those of other private schools?
  • so comfortable in who you are that you don't want to do the work to get there?
  • too comfortable with the idea of being a "struggling Lutheran school?"
  • somehow believing that church schools should struggle? 
  • somehow believing that excellence in education and outreach are mutually exclusive?
Be a great school, bring students in and share with them the Gospel of Jesus Christ. They will 


Friday, August 26, 2016

EDUCATION: Luther's Prayers Bookmarks!

500 YEARS of Luther!

As I was reading the Bible the other night and started to get sleepy, I wanted to pray Luther's Evening Prayer. We said his morning prayer in my classroom every morning, and it's similar to the evening prayer, but I'm getting old and kept getting the morning and evening words mixed up. I wondered if I might find a bookmark that had it printed on it that I could keep it in my Bible so this didn't happen again, Sure enough, I couldn't find one anywhere! So, what did I do? I designed a few. Unfortunately I can't give them away, but I want to make them available to you all because I think there are a number of ways they might be used:
  • Rally Sunday gifts for education or the whole congregation
  • Sunday School rewards
  • Confirmation gift
  • New member gift
  • Make them available at the information desk or kiosk
You can see the designs below.

Wednesday, August 10, 2016

OUTREACH: Rally Sunday magnets anyone?

Rally Sunday is right around the corner!!

Instead of a boring flyer or an email, have your information printed on refrigerator magnets at Refrigerator magnets are available in many and various sizes, one being the size of a business card or one that is a 2" by 2" square (1000 for about $66). You might think that's pretty small, but it's not too small for the Word of God! There are bigger sizes as well, but of course, the bigger they are, the more expensive they are, however, 1000 3" x 3" marketing magnets for about $120 is a pretty good deal. Handing them out on Rally Sunday is a great idea!

3" x 3"
2" x 2"

Also, if you've got a business card, you can have it made into a magnet at for a very good price. You can get 100 of them for about $40 or 1000 for about $84, but really, who needs 1000 business cards... unless you're giving them away as visitor gifts!

Monday, August 1, 2016

LEADERSHIP: Marriage Counseling

I was married when I was 51 to a man who has eight children, five of which were still living in the one bathroom home. Marriage is difficult when it's just you and your spouse trying to learn how to live together, but throw in kids and everything is ten times more of a challenge, especially if you both have kids. For the first time I thanked God that I hadn't had kids.

Now, I'm pretty good with teenagers after all the years I spent teaching high school, but I was looking forward to marriage counseling because I'd never been married before and was pretty set in my ways, and because the teenagers I know usually go home every night. What did I learn during the process? NOTHING. I can confidently say that my marriage counseling from my husband's pastor was sub sub par. It consisted of a few conversations and please read these somewhat helpful love and respect books. In an ideal world those would be perfect, but we don't live in an ideal world. We live in a world where we need to be able to handle the  tough questions and there were no tough questions.

Thankfully, my cousin had great counseling and recommended a book that I wish the pastor had us read together. It's called Fit to be Tied by Bill and Lynne Hybels. Reading this book BEFORE you tie the knot is key. Asking hard questions BEFORE you tie the knot is key. Nobody wants to regret marrying the person they did a year or two down the road. You have to think and talk about the things that may seem great now, but may drive you crazy later. You know... exciting and romantic things like making the bed and paying the bills.The book is written in two parts, Part I is for pre-marriage and is called On the Way to Marriage, and Part II is called Marriage that Lasts

If you're someone who counsels couples before marriage or if you know people who are thinking about getting married, I strongly suggest you add this book to their required reading. Tell them to each get a notebook and as they read they should write down thoughts and questions to ask their want-to-be spouse. I'm not a big fan of the discussion guide I found in the back of the book, but if they answer the following questions as they read I think it will bring up plenty of topics for discussion.
  1. What do you agree with in this section/chapter and why?
  2. What do you disagree with in this section/chapter and why?
It's not about agreeing or disagreeing with the authors, it's about agreeing and disagreeing with each other. 

Friday, July 22, 2016

PARENTS: Teens, Independence, and Choice

The Independence Issue
  • Teenagers already know everything about life that they think they need to know and want to be independent. 
  • We want teenagers to be independent, but at 16, 17, and even 18, they're not quite ready yet. 
The Independence Solution - It's about choice.

We live in this house as a family and families are units who live together, treat each other well, work together, and support each other physically and emotionally. We live by family rules set by the authority figures we call parents (or guardians). They are the ones who have the responsibility for what happens in the house and they pay the bills. These rules, set by parents, include manners and common courtesy. Each parent gets to decide how much independence each child is allowed. As you become independent and we learn that you can be responsible and trustworthy, the amount of independence you're allowed grows. So, here's the choice. 

The people who live in our home free of charge are called FAMILY. The benefits of living together as a family include caring about each other, food (3 meals a day) and fellowship, family vacations, celebrating holidays and going to church together, and since we all live there, each member participates in the work it takes to keep the family home in good shape. When you're a part of a family there are also responsibilities. Responsibilities may include respect of people and things, curfew, chores, and putting up with parental input regarding your life choices which may result in behavioral consequences.

People who live in our home as independent adults are called RENTERS. Typically we don't rent rooms in our home, but because you are our child, we will make an exception. Of course, renting includes financial responsibilities instead of family responsibilities, but if you are unhappy with your situation you may choose to become a renter and rent a room from us. Landlords set the rules by which you may live on their property, so, for $250 - $300 a month a renter receives a single furnished room, a cupboard in the kitchen, and a small shelf in the refrigerator. You will also be responsible for a percentage of utilities, and if necessary, maid service for laundry and bathroom/bedroom cleaning. Rent does NOT include use of a car, paid gas or auto insurance, food (breakfast, lunch, or dinner), free use of WiFi, use of a family computer, or cell phone. 

Choices... Choices! 
Welcome to independence!!

Monday, June 20, 2016

FAMILY: Dry Erase Prayer Board

One of the things that people seem to struggle with is teaching their children to pray. Many, many people know and pray the common table prayer, but many families may need some hints about how to start praying more freely.

Today at dinner I brought up a few prayer requests for my teenage step-children because we've got some health issues in the family and I want them to start (if they don't already) talking to God about them. That brought me to this great idea about the prayer board. We have a dry erase calendar in our kitchen. Why not have a dry erase prayer board? The whole family can add to it and at dinner every night, after praying the common table prayer, everyone can pick something off the board to pray for. Adults can go first and last to model how simple praying for specific things can be.

Be sure to encourage prayer that's not just wishful thinking or "genie" type wishes. God is not a genie to whom we ask for stuff off of a Christmas list. We want to tell God how much we love Him, have some sort of confession or admission of our sinfulness, and thank God for the great things He has done in our lives (everything good comes from God). Among many other things, we want to:

  • thank God for His Son's great sacrifice.
  • thank God for giving us faith.
  • thank God fot every good thing.
  • ask that we can handle difficulties at school or at work.
  • ask that a friend can experience the peace of the Lord.
  • ask for strength to do what God expects of us.
  • admit that we don't deserve the good things He does for us.
  • ask God that in Him we can have confidence.
  • ask God to help us trust Him more.
  • ask God to work in us to help others.
  • ask God give us strength of faith.
  • and many other examples.

Saturday, June 18, 2016

UGH!! I hate the word DONATE!

Ugh! It's come to this! For a few years now I've been giving away most of the resources I've created (pretty much every one except my books) and I've come to the point where I have to either start charging for them or need to accept donations to the cause of more meaningful congregational education. Hence, the new page on this blog called...

I have another book in the works called The Art of Teaching Sunday School that will be for any congregation that has no idea how to train their wonderfully loving Sunday School teachers, I'm working on the Bible Reading Guides for the Gospels and Acts, and I am currently writing or updating Environmental Learning Curriculum for Camp Omega in Waterville, MN. It will have an intentional faith element and reference MN state education standards. I also have a number of other projects that I would love to share, but sadly, I can no longer do all of this for free. I am hoping and praying that God will provide a way for this educational ministry to flourish and grow.

I'm asking that you pray about it and if you've found the blog and resources helpful, that you give a small (or even medium size) donation.

I will instruct you and teach you in the way you should go; I will counsel you with my eye upon you. 
Psalm 32:8

Wednesday, June 8, 2016

MEN'S MINISTRY: How can I help?

I have a friend whose husband passed on to be with Jesus. It's been about a year and she's struggling along as all widows or widowers do. She recently posted on Facebook that she has some chores that she needs help with around the house. She's sad and lonely and frustrated because when her husband died those people who said they would help have suddenly found themselves too busy. She doesn't want to be a burden, but there are things she can't do and she doesn't know where to turn. She can't carry her air conditioner from the shed to the house so she opened her windows and the one for the AC has no screen. Her irrigation system stopped pumping and she couldn't get it started. The ice maker in her refrigerator stopped working.

As Christians it's our job to help so it's time we start promoting that in our congregations. It's time to start noticing and taking care of those around us. I told my friend to call her church. The question is... what will the church do? Every congregation has people who can take a few minutes out of their week to stop in and check a problem out, perhaps solve it, and/or at least give some advice.

EVERY congregation has adults who can volunteer to help these people with these things. Don't push it off on the youth. Yes, there are things they should help with too, but true service is learned through the example of giving adults.

EVERY congregation has people who need a little assistance. What is happening in the church that we get so upset over church politics, but forget about those in our community that need a little of Jesus' love in the form of carrying an air conditioner and going the extra mile to put it in?!

What you need to do: men will volunteer to help if they know it's just a job or two once in a while. I know they will. They like to feel needed and appreciated.
  • Start praying.
  • Start asking. 
  • Start expecting. 
  • Start a list of helpers and how they can help: home repairs, odd jobs, lifting/moving, computers, small engine repair, etc.
  • Let the elderly people in your congregation know you (as their congregation) are there to help and start a list of needs: emergent and not-so-emergent.

My heart aches for her that she's reaching out to Facebook for help and not her church. Have we become so consumed worrying about kids and our silly congregational politics that we've forgotten that we're here to help?


Sunday, June 5, 2016

YOUTH: Video -- Christian Mingle

It would seem that they're making some Christian movies these days that aren't all bad. One I recently ran across on Netflix is called Christian Mingle. It's about a young lady whose friends are all getting married and she wants to too. She keeps seeing commercials for Christian Mingle so she signs up, not really being much of a Christian, and buys the book, Christianity for Dummies and a Bible. She wanted to find a man, but Jesus found her instead.

It was funny, the acting wasn't stiff, it didn't show a weird version of Christianity (like many do), and the message was positive and showed how putting Christ first helps in finding the right guy. If you have a girl group, this is a good movie night movie!

Thursday, June 2, 2016

EDUCATION: Luther's Prayers for Younger Kids

I love Luther's morning and evening prayers. I think they are something we should teach our children and when I taught 7th and 8th grades in a Lutheran school, every morning we would say the morning prayer before we began the day. I created an 18" x 24" poster to make it easier for the kids to remember. You can see them below and get a file on my posters page.

The problem with the younger children is that the way they're worded makes them difficult to understand. Valuing the prayers and wanting younger children to be able to say them and understand them more easily, I reworded them for a children's message. I tried to keep the message while using simpler, more understandable words for younger children. Posters for each prayer are below and can be found on my posters page along with directions about how to order them for $4 each. For the children's message on Sunday I created some cards for each of them to take home and put in their bedrooms to remind them to say the prayers every day/night. People have been asking for them ever since so I thought they might be worth a share.

Feel free to download Luther's Evening Prayer Card and Luther's Morning Prayer Card for your the kids in your church or school. There are two on one page so they can be printed back to back and you'll get both prayers on one card. (I know, I should charge for these things!)

Luther's Prayers


Kids version of Luther's Prayers


Thursday, May 26, 2016


We all know that killing babies is not a good idea. Young people are told more and more often that women should be allowed to choose, but they make it sound like it's not different than having a mole removed. It's not. Use these videos appropriately. They can be found on the website shown or on YouTube. Lord, have mercy!!

First Trimester (what most women get)

Second Trimester

Third Trimester

Tuesday, April 26, 2016

LEADERSHIP: Youth Fundraising Accounts and the IRS

While I am not a great fan of them, for many years churches have had individual student accounts. Students could participate in a variety of fundraisers and accrue money toward their trips and activities. They may still do that, but there are rules. Find a pdf copy of these rules here.

Your child may be participating in Lutheran Church Youth Ministry fundraisers. They will have the opportunity to raise funds through approved fundraisers to help support youth activities such as mission trips, youth gathering trips, and other approved activities.

All fundraisers are subject to the following guidelines as directed and suggested by the IRS 501(c)(3) and nonprofit law:
  1. Students are only to participate in approved fundraisers.
  2. Payments made by parents will be credited to each individual account. These payments are not tax-deductible.
  3. Straight contributions to Lutheran Church Youth Ministry (which may be tax-deductible) may not be earmarked and credited to support specific students.
  4. Checks returned for non-sufficient funds will be charged an amount equal to the Bank’s returned item fee.
  5. Students and parents understand that the money raised is the property of Lutheran Church and not the student. 
  6. All amounts raised are used for the tax-exempt purposes of Lutheran Church Youth Ministry.
  7. Lutheran Church Youth Ministry, and not the students, must determine how the funds are used…see IRS and nonprofit law recommendations.
  8. Students or parents may not withdraw funds to use as they wish and students may not transfer funds to friends.
  9. Any personal deposits that were made to an individual account will be refunded at the time of closing the account (graduation or no longer in youth ministry). The only exception will be any debts owed to Lutheran Church Youth Ministry and any non-refundable trip expenses (501(c)(3)).
  10. No earned credits or personal deposits can be transferred from one youth group member’s account to another except for transfers between existing accounts of siblings who live in the same household. Transfers will also be permitted between existing accounts of siblings who are leaving the youth group and new accounts of siblings from the same household who are entering the youth group in the following year.
  11. According to IRS 501(c)(3), participation in a fundraising activity is voluntary. Students and parents are not required to participate in a minimum number of fundraising activities or events to receive funds from the general fund. This organization does not engage in a “no work, no play policy”. To demand students work for their funds removes the idea that fundraising is voluntary and now becomes “work” for your share of the funds. 

Crediting of Fundraising Amounts Constitutes Private Benefit

"If a booster club (youth ministry) confers a benefit on a participant in return for their fundraising activities, such as by crediting amounts raised by a participant toward that participant’s dues requirement, or by crediting amounts raised against the cost of a trip, the booster club is providing a private benefit to that participant. Consequently, such practices could result in the organization failing to be described in § 501(c)(3).It is also possible that amounts credited to a participant’s account due to fundraising would constitute income from services, and could result in employment taxes." (Forbes, Sept. 15, 2013)

"In order to remain eligible for non-profit status, money raised by the organization must be used for the public good, not to enrich the members personally, either in the aggregate or directly attributable to an individual’s portion of the fundraising. Scouting units are owned by their chartered organizations, and their non-profit status is conferred upon them by the CO, most of which are 501(c)(3) organizations. Private benefit to members in anything more than an insubstantial amount may jeopardize the non-profit status of the parent organization. Initially, the IRS ruled in a case involving sports booster clubs, but have also passed judgment in a similar manner when a ruling in a Scout context was requestedThe same approach applies as well to church youth groups, marching bands and academic clubs." (Bobwhite Blather, Jan 20, 2014)

Wednesday, March 23, 2016

SPOTLIGHT on Christina, Urban Outreach and Youth Ministry

I spent some time recently chatting with my friend Christina who does outreach and youth ministry (as well as many other things) in a struggling urban Lutheran church.  Some of the things she’s trying are worth sharing.

Christina arrived and was introduced to a large, but well-worn facility, a community that is a myriad of cultures with low incomes, and an aging congregation that was unsure of what to do, as was Christina. The first thing she told me was, “There’s no job description for this!” So, she started reading… a lot. The first book she recommended was Autopsy of a Deceased Church: 12 Ways to Keep Yours Alive by Thom S. Rainer. This book may help point out areas that are in need of attention.

It didn’t take but a moment for her to realize that her congregation did not resemble the community in which it resides. Perhaps they have been so focused on hanging on to what is done inside the church that they didn’t see what was going on outside of it. This is one way a congregation dies in the middle of a populated area.
We, as a church, have fallen into a habit of keeping the gospel to ourselves. It is not only intended for us to go to church and study the Bible, but to share the message with those who have not yet heard.]

Keeping in mind that Jesus is the center of everything and that prayer, devotion, and Bible study are key components, Christina started a few things.

1) She started by cleaning up the facility and inviting volunteers to help. Nobody is interested in a church that looks run down, as if nobody cares about it or has a lot of junk or broken furniture sitting around. It’s amazing what a little elbow grease and a coat of paint will do. A building is not a sacred cow. Create boundaries where necessary. Lock the doors of rooms people shouldn’t be going into and lock up valuables, but open the building up to the community for appropriate use. Spend a little money for basketball hoops and other sports equipment. Start allowing the church to be a place in the community where kids go after school, but make sure activities are structured and monitored. Nobody can do it all on their own. Volunteers are necessary.

2) She started developing relationships and, more importantly, partnerships in the community. Her first task was to talk to people and ask questions. She visited with administrators in the schools and asked what their most common problematic issues were. She partnered with Timber Bay – Mentor for Life and started weekly mentoring groups where the kids could meet in the church. They are also planning on beginning TheVirtues Campus – Church Based College Education at their church. Along with preschools, daycares, and before/after school care, another option would be to start a homework club where kids can come, have a snack, and do their homework in a positive environment.

3) She started showing up with groups from the church consistently in the community whether helping or playing. Every city has events. Don’t just go to them, participate in them. Make a float, have a booth, provide a service. Make sure people know what church you’re from and step out into the community. Participate!
Integrating good deeds and good news into the life of the church in order to be a valuable impact and/or influence in the community to the point where people would notice if they no longer participated.]

4) She stopped making culture the issue. Poverty is the issue. Poverty is a lack of resources and support. Find out what people really need and find out where those resources can be found in your neighborhood. People used to go to the local church for help. Help is not always money, it’s support, a listening ear, knowing what’s available and where.
Gain an understanding of the complexity of poverty and how simply giving people money and handouts does more harm than good.]

 There were a few other things she highlighted.
  • Be sure your infrastructure is in place before you bring kids in for sports or mentoring.  The two biggest issues are behavior and safety.  Love = discipline.  Lock the rooms you aren’t using or things will be stolen.  It’s part of the culture of poverty so remind yourself that it’s not because they’re bad people and it’s not because they don’t like you.
  • Make sure you have enough volunteers.
  • Train your volunteers!! They need to understand that LOVE = DISCIPLINE. It’s not about feeling sorry for their cute little faces when they’ve broken a rule. You’re welcome in this building if you follow the rules.
  • When students check in for an event, stamp their hand for that event so you know where they belong.  Hand stamps don’t tell stories. Kids do.
  • Don’t expect consistent attendance.  Welcome anybody who shows up and encourage them to return, but don’t define success by the numbers.
  • Choose activities or events that build relationships.  For example, going to an amusement park. Sure, it’s fun, but does running around in small groups and riding rides build the kind of relationships you’re hoping to build?  
Christina’s greatest asset is how she laughed about not knowing what she’s doing. We were taught to “do” ministry in a certain way, but there is no playbook for what she’s doing. She’s doing it anyway. Her heart is full of Jesus and she’s trying. She’s reaching out. She’s opening God’s house to the community and letting them know that He loves them. Things that don’t work will end and new things will be tried. You may not be able to do ministry the way Christina does because every urban congregation and every community is different, but you can try too.

Below are some books Christina read and recommends for doing youth ministry in an urban community:

Tuesday, March 15, 2016

YOUTH: A Few Fun Night Games!

It's getting to the point where we'll be having the kids run around outside again. Here are a couple of fun night activities I stumbled upon.

Hide and Seek /Tapping Sticks
Choose 4 or 5 people to hide somewhere outside. It helps if there are trees around. Every minute or two s/he taps two sticks together to draw attention to themselves so they can be found. (Don't tap a stick on a tree trunk. It's not good for the tree.)

Capture the Glow-in-the-Dark Flag
Use large glow sticks (two different colors) for the flags.

Firefly Tag
For maximum effect, this game should be played with a small pocket torch so that the beam is not too easy to spot. One person is selected to be the firefly and hides outside in the dark, away from the rest of the players. After counting to 20 everyone goes in search of the firefly, who is constantly moving around from hiding spot to hiding spot. Every 60 seconds, the firefly must quickly flick her flashlight on and off. When she is caught the game is over and a new firefly is appointed. Add extra excitement to the game by giving all players a flashlight to flick on and off, but cover the firefly’s light with a layer of coloured cellophane. There will be lots of beautiful twinkling lights, but the trick will be to find the coloured light of the daring firefly before anyone else.

This game is better played at dusk when you can still see each other. One person is it and everyone goes off to hide. “It” counts to 50 and then goes and tries to find the hiding kids. The hiding kids can move spots as they sneak away from the person who’s “it”. If “it” finds someone he calls out their name. The person who’s name was called has to follow the person who’s “it”. While they are walking around looking for other kids, if the person who following “it” secretly gets waved to by another hiding child, they can sneak away from the person who’s “it” and go and hide again. Once someone’s name is called 3 times, they are “it” and the game continues.

Monday, March 14, 2016

LEADERSHIP: Bible Study Tools

I recently heard of a few Bible study tools that some of my pastor friends are using. Here's the deal though. They are resources, but they don't put your Bible study together. The provide information, but don't show you how to organize a study logically, ask significant questions to challenge students or pull it all together in a meaningful way to change lives. Information doesn't always impact lives, in fact, it rarely does.

Glo Bible
I've used the GLO Bible for a few years now and it's a great tool. I put it up on the screen and students can read along, I can use the images, maps, videos, virtual tours, the timeline, etc.  I've enjoyed it as a resource and it's very affordable.  It appears they're in the middle of an upgrade for mobile use which will be released Easter 2016.

Another one that will help with Bible study preparation (Bible history, culture, translation, etc.) called Logos. They have different products for different denominations. The Lutheran starter is $265.46 and it has any number of helpful sources including a library of 200 book resources specifically chosen for Lutherans. The program can be upgraded to the platinum level for $1934.96. It's got a lot of great resources, but you need to use it a lot for that price!

The other one I've seen mentioned is Accordance. It is also a massive collection of interactive resources. The starter program costs $59.90 but comes with very limited resources. The Bible Study version costs $199.00 and for many more resources, the Ultimate version tops out at a cost of $1999.00. Try a free Accordance demo.

Sword Searcher
Sword Searcher is a downloadable application that costs $59.95.  It seems to be a nice tool, though, while it is a reasonable price, I'm not sure if it's the one I would choose because it doesn't have the resource books I prefer. Check out the features and screenshots.

Of course, you can use those or the one that's extremely reasonable in cost, TheWord. The basic version is FREE!! It doesn't have everything the other programs have, but it has the basics. Check the library for books that can be added on at a reasonable price, of course, if you add on too many you may be paying the price of one of the other programs.

Another free Bible study resources is e-Sword. This application also has a parallel Bible, an integrated editor, graphics, powerful searches, etc. It all depends on what you need and the level of your study.

Wednesday, March 9, 2016

YOUTH: How do you plan a devotion?

As with my last post on prayer, while I was doing youth counselor training we talked about the importance of ending events with a brief devotion. Along with prayer, you always want to take time to be in the Word when you get kids together. It helps create good habits and teaches them to connect it with their lives.

The leaders at this church wanted their youth to take responsibility for that task, but were at a loss as to how to help them. Of course, they could always just buy a book, but why not help them be a little more creative and personal? I created a short devotion lesson plan and form to help in planning.

Here's my sample devo using the outline from the simple lesson plan:

Opening - Turn to face the person on your right. As we say the invocation, put the sign of the cross on their back. (In the name of the Father, who created us, the Son, who redeemed us, and the Spirit, who strengthens us.

Bible Verse - James 1:22-24
But be doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves. For if anyone is a hearer of the word and not a doer, he is like a man who looks intently at his natural face in a mirror. For he looks at himself and goes away and at once forgets what he was like.

Topic or Theme of the Verse - Let your faith show in what you do!

Something to Think About

Describe the life or actions of a hearer and a doer. How are they different?
What does it mean to be someone who looks at your their in a mirror and immediately forgets it?

Describe the life of somebody who lives like they don't care?

Look at the lyrics of the song. It's not about the world, it's about YOUR world. We can let our faith shine on one person at a time. How?

What can we change this week to let our faith shine a little brighter?

Prayer (ACTS form)
(Go around the circle. Squeeze the hand of the person on your left when you are done praying.)

Dear Heavenly Father, you are almighty and awesome!!
We are sorry, Lord, that we do not use the gifts you gave us to your glory. We are sorry that we wait for others to do the work you have called us to do. We confess that we are sinful and what we wish we could do, we cannot and do not do. Thank you so much for forgiving our sin through your son, Jesus Christ. Thank you for our friends and family and all the others you put in our lives to remind and help us keep our focus on you. Father, we ask that you give us wisdom and courage to be hearers and doers so that we can show your love to those around us every day. And we pray you hear our requests......
All this we ask in Jesus' name, AMEN.

Closing Blessing - Numbers 6:24-26
The Lord bless you and keep you; the Lord make his face to shine upon you and be gracious to you; the Lord lift up his face upon you and give you peace.

Tuesday, March 8, 2016

YOUTH: I don't know how to pray!

I was recently asked to train some volunteer youth counselors and they said they really wanted their youth to start being responsible for prayer and devotions. The young man who is currently the President of the youth group was super open and said he wanted to pray and do devotions, but didn't know how. I created these forms for him and thought there might be somebody else who might want to use them too.

This simple form has an explanation of the ACTS (Adoration, Confession, Thanksgiving, Supplication) typically used in prayer, but it's in language teenagers will be comfortable using and a basic form on back that can be printed out and shared. Don't forget to remind them that prayer time is a time for focus on communicating with God and not goofing around.

  • Use simple words. You don't need to sound like the pastor. Sound like you.
  • Each prayer leader can use the form to make the prayer that night their own. 
  • Have the whole group write a basic prayer they'll use every week, but have a place for personal petitions. 
  • Start a prayer tradition for the group. When I was in high school our youth group would stand in a circle with arms crossed, we would do a popcorn prayer (squeeze the hand of the person next to you when you're done) and then we had a song we sang. 
  • Another tradition might be to have everyone put their hands in the center as they pray or sit facing out of the group and holding hands so they aren't distracted by each other. 
It's very important for us to make sure children grow up being comfortable praying out loud. I hope this simple tool helps.

YOUTH: Helpful Video Explanations

I love it when I stumble on an unexpected resource!!  I found a video channel on YouTube that takes short topics and explains some concepts to teens. These very short videos called ON TEENS are created by a middle school teacher (Kevin Spaans) and aren't necessarily from a Christian perspective, but most of the concepts are pretty nicely explained.  They might be a nice warm-up for a Bible study.  Some of the titles are:  Demonstrating Self Confidence, Depression, Divorce, Losing, Apologizing, etc. Check them out! Below are the videos about forgiveness and respect.

Friday, March 4, 2016

YOUTH: Tic-Tac-Toe Relay

Here's a cool game for your children or youth that can be done almost anywhere with large or small groups.

Das vielleicht beste Aufwärmspiel für Körper UND Geist ! (nach Fußball) Maybe the best warm-up ever for body and brain ! (except Soccer)Peut-être le meilleur jeu d'échauffement pour le corps et aussi pour la tête ! (après le foot)Merci á mes jeunes gardiens d'Istres Provence Handball !
Posted by Thomas Bauer on Tuesday, March 1, 2016

Thursday, March 3, 2016


I have a passion for Lutheran education in schools and churches. I've been going on and on and on about it for years now hoping somebody will take themselves out of the proverbial box and start thinking differently. I've posted on it many times, been frustrated, wanted to give up, and wrote again. God, for some reason, has put this upon my heart and given me the passion to keep going. We must not be done yet.

The Experiment
The truth is... we're never going to get students into our Lutheran schools unless we are out there continuously working to make them excellent and talking about them. So, I recently performed a little social media experiment. I created a generic ad for Lutheran education and I put it on social media. I wanted to know how many people would share it. Mind you, I didn't put SHARE THIS anywhere on it. I wanted to know if my Lutheran friends who say they support Lutheran education would share it. I wanted to see if they would at least support it on social media. Guess what? On Facebook it got 9 likes and 26 shares on my personal page and 15 views on my Carpenter's Ministry Toolbox page. On LinkedIn it got 51 views. It was liked on Twitter once. It's only been a week, but I admit I was hoping for more.

For me it mirrors how we are inside our congregations. We LIKE everything we're doing and within the congregation we'll equip and encourage, but when we step out the door we leave it all behind. We'll LIKE, but not SHARE. So... when do we put our money where our mouth is? When do we value and support Lutheran education outloud to the public and not just inside our congregations or inside our larger church body? We talk and talk and talk, but don't DO. Schools keep closing. When, my friends, when will we step up? When will you?

If we don't value a Lutheran education, 
why should anybody else?

Lutheran School Locator

Monday, February 22, 2016

LUTHERAN SCHOOLS: Social Media and Marketing

Ever hear of Humans of New York (HONY)? It's snippets of the stories of human beings in New York City and it gives me joy when it finds its way into my newsfeed. It's short compelling stories of individuals around New York City. From the moment I saw it I wondered how we could do the same thing for marketing Lutheran schools. How can we share the beauty and excellence of Lutheran education over social media?

Graphic created by Laura Langhoff Arndt
First, before you're overwhelmed by the time it might take, there are tools out there to help. Social media management tools will post it all for you when you need it done. The one I know many other church workers use is #1 on the list, HootSuite.

Second, before you start posting away and if you are an employee of a Lutheran school, know your strengths. If you want to promote a rigorous curriculum, be sure you have a stronger, more effective curriculum than the schools in your area and be sure you can show why it's better. Don't just say it. Be able to prove it with comparable data and examples of work. Be familiar enough with your curriculum and that of your competition to be able to compare it to what the other schools are doing and show how it's stronger than what they are doing.

Third, parents don't have to be a Christian or a Lutheran to want their children to have a great education. Parents who aren't looking for a Lutheran or Christian school are looking for an excellent school, and safe place for their children to learn that has a proven curriculum. Get them in the door for an excellent education and let the Holy Spirit do the rest..

Today at Lutheran School

Once you've got those three items taken care of, here is how social media might be used to help market your Lutheran school:

  • Come up with a good tag! 
    • Because your kids are worth it! 
    • Check out a Lutheran School! 
    • Lutheran Schools - An all around good idea! 
    • What education should be! 
    • The positive side of education! 
    • More affordable than you think! 
    • A wise choice! 
    • We're not your public school!
    • Far more than an education! 
    • Start your day at a Lutheran School! 
    • Positive, life-changing education!
    • Raising faithful students in a changing world.
  • Have a clear, concise mission using phrases that appeal to those in and outside the church: In the spirit of Lutheran education students will learn to Live like a Friend, Love like a Servant, Learn like a Follower, Lead like a Guide. Along with "Christ Centered" and "Christian" use words or phrases like wholesome, family values, supportive, consistent, rigorous, challenging, family partners, encouraging, equipping, respect, relevant, genuine, guidance, mentors, etc.
  • Let them know where you are located. Many people don't know there's a Lutheran school in their neighborhood.
  • Through questions and observation, write snippets from kids to share regularly online. Choose wisely and look for things like why they love their school, what they learned in class, why they like the book they're reading, etc. Little kids have trouble verbalizing when asked directly so you have to observe or ask teachers for quotes to share or stories about things that happened in class or on the playground. 
  • Only use photos you've been given permission to use online or for marketing purposes and get permission to use first names as well. Never use the last names of children.

Once you've got your format down you can share it on Facebook, LinkedIn, tweet it on Twitter, put it on Instagram, etc. Here are a few of my examples (photos in public domain).

Wednesday, February 17, 2016



I ran across these four LIFE MEASURES that Pastor Dan Schepmann and the congregation at Gloria Dei Lutheran Church in Houston, TX have developed. They make more sense than any other metric I've seen for a church because they no longer measure spiritual growth by attendance and/or giving. They are personal to each individual. According to the church website they are:
  • Living as a Friend 
    • Do I love others the way God loves me? 
    • Am I available and responsive to developing new relationships?
    • Do I show compassion for the needs of others?
    • Do I intentionally cultivate relationships where spiritual growth occurs?
  • Learning as a Follower
    • Am I growing in my relationship with God by spending time in conversation with Him?
    • Is my worship igniting my desire to follow Jesus every day?
    • Am I getting to know God and His will for my life by spending time in His Word?
    • Am I consistently responding to God's leadership?
  • Loving as a Servant
    • Am I attentive of the needs of others in my community?
    • Is there capacity in my life to respond to the needs of others?
    • Do I put the needs of others before my own?
    • Am I serving in a way that uses my God-given gifts?
  • Leading as a Guide
    • Am I willing and prepared to share my faith with others?
    • Am I equipping others to lead?
    • Am I growing in financial generosity?
    • Am I working with members of the Body?
The church website is comprehensive assessment that includes Scripture references and questions you can respond to in order to assess your personal growth and the areas in which you might want to seek a deeper understanding. If you check these out you will love them!


If not on a congregational level, you may find this way of thinking far more helpful with youth leadership and planning. I have four components to my youth ministry philosophy that mirror these life measures. They are:
  • Spiritual Growth -- Worship, Bible study, devotions and prayer.
  • Leadership Training -- Opportunities to lead and be a part of the congregation at large.
  • Opportunities for Service -- Inside and outside of the regular life of the congregation.
  • Activities for Building Friendships -- Knowing people on a deeper personal and spiritual level. 
The same LIFE MEASURES can be used for youth too. I would suggest you have the youth do them at the same time once or twice a year so you can see where they rate themselves in these areas and how the group is growing together. Keep in mind that sometimes teenagers will rate themselves far higher than they actually are if they think it will bring unwanted attention.

Personally, I think this is a fantastic plan and wish it was available for every congregation! In our walk with Jesus, it never hurts to take a moment and think about where we are, where we hope to be, and what we're doing to get there.