Friday, November 3, 2017

EDUCATION: Luther's Kids Prayers in Song

It has been brought to my attention by a pastor that with a couple of simple changes, the Luther's Kids Morning and Evening Prayers I wrote can be sung to the Tallis Cannon or Old Hundredth tunes. What an exciting observation! I might suggest that if you're teaching them to children that you choose a different tune for each prayer. That way they won't confuse the words.

I've created posters of them and will be getting new bookmarks as well. Stay tuned!

Friday, October 27, 2017

EDUCATION: The Atheist Delusion Video

All Americans have not heard the truth. You don't have to go to the mall and reach out to perfect strangers because everybody has a friend or family member they need to talk to about what God has done for them through Jesus Christ.

This video, The Atheist Delusion: Why Millions Deny the Obvious is both interesting and enlightening, beginning with the logic behind intelligent design and the illogic of evolution, the interviewer logically takes self-proclaimed atheists down a path of discovery. Show it to your youth and adults! There are a few discussion questions below that will help them pull it all together. It will not only help people when discussing their faith, but will encourage and affirm what they already believe.

The Basic Flow of Questions in the Video
Do you believe God exists?
Can something come from nothing?
Where does the complex and unique information in DNA come from?
Which came first, the chicken or the egg? (What evolved first?)
Why do we have knowledge of right and wrong?
Why do we want to live in darkness?
If God exists, does hell exist?
Is it just to punish evil?
Are you a good person?
If judged, would you be guilty and go to hell?
Do you know what God did for guilty sinners so they wouldn't have to go to hell?

If you want to purchase the dvd, you'll find it at Living Waters. It's $4.99 and I believe it would be good for Christians to support their efforts.

Possible Pre-movie Questions
Everybody has a friend (or family member) who is an atheist and believes in evolution because they have not heard the truth. In a discussion with that person, what would you say to support your belief in creation, their creator, and what he did to assure their salvation?

Possible Movie Questions
Either pause periodically to give time to respond to these questions (or any that you add), or give time after the video. At the very least, make sure people have paper and pencil to respond to question 8 on this list.

  1. What is the argument against nothing producing or becoming something? 
  2. What are 3 or 4 points that prove the earth/universe was created by intelligent design? 
  3. When asked about evolution, what is a problem with the idea of evolution from a single cell?  
  4. Once they agree that there must be intelligence behind creation, why is it so difficult for people to admit there is a God?
  5. What is idolatry?
  6. If God exists, and the Bible is true, why do some people still want to sit in darkness?
  7. Do you think it would help to give these people something after a discussion like this that would help them answer their questions? What might that be?
  8. Write down anything that impresses you about the questions that were asked and answered or how they were asked and answered.
Possible Post-movie Questions
Write down a brief outline of what your heard in the video. 
What would you tell your atheist friend or family member now? 

If you want a study or video guide created by the video creators, you can find it here.

Tuesday, October 3, 2017

CONFIRMATION: How to Give/Take Notes

When I was in confirmation the only notes I took were the doodles on the sides of the pages of my catechism. "What? You mean you weren't completely engaged in the important information?" No. My pastor sat in a chair or stood by a podium and spoke for an hour or so and asked questions nobody really answered.

Recent studies have shown that students learn more when taking their own notes by hand. What does this mean? Using computers, tablets, or recording devices for note taking does not increase learning. Putting notes in handouts and handing them out, does not increase learning.

What does that mean for confirmation? It means that having students take notes is a good learning tool for better long-term comprehension and should be used by confirmation educators. It also keeps students engaged. Students who take notes by hand out-perform those who use technology in responding to conceptual questions. The problem is that most pastors don't expect note-taking and, believe it or not, most middle school students do not know how to take notes. Note-taking is a skill that is expected, but not taught in many schools today. The only people who think taking notes using a computer is better are people who sell computers.

How can you help students take good notes? 

  • Give each student a notebook at the beginning of the year. They should be able to use the same notebook for every year of confirmation. I recommend the composition notebooks that are not spiral so the pages are not easily removable. Put a big name sticker on the front of each one.
  • Develop some short-hand symbols for students to use when taking notes for those words that you use often. For example, Israelites = I, Disciples = D, 10 Commandments = 10C, Old and New Testaments = OT or NT, etc.
  • Remind students often that taking notes is not a exercise in writing down everything you say. 
  • Learn about graphic organizers (a visual display that demonstrates relationships between facts, concepts, or ideas). Sample 1 (Abraham) - Sample 2 (10 Commandments) - Sample 3 (6 Chief Parts)
  • Give periodic notes quizzes. These are short 3-5 question quizzes for which students use their notes to find answers. 
  • Play review games and let students use their notes to show them the value of re-reading them. 
  • Use clues or cue words to help students know when you're saying something they should write down. I used to tell my students, "If I write - you write." If you write while they do, you won't feel impatient waiting.
  • If you use slides, students will copy them down... without thinking about what they are writing. They will also stop listening while they write so stop speaking while they're writing. I often said, "Can I go on?" Give outlines and expect them to fill in the details on their own. Give them time to write definitions in their own words. 
  • Take a moment to ask a quick comprehension question about what they just wrote down. 
  • Either collect or look at notes once in a while and put a sticker or something on them to show that you've seen them and approve.
These are just a few things that can be done to help students take notes. It may seem a bit complicated at first, but the more you practice these things the better you will get at doing them. Remember, you're teaching them the most important thing they will ever learn. Do it well! 

Find other great teaching information in The Art of Teaching Confirmation.

Saturday, September 23, 2017

EDUCATION: Luther's Prayers Bookmarks and the Reformation's 500th Anniversary

As we celebrate the 500th Anniversary of the Reformation this year we are focusing more closely on what it and Martin Luther did for all believers. I love Luther's prayers. One night I decided to start saying them more often and didn't want to get out of bed to find my catechism. I wanted a bookmark so that they would be readily accessible and couldn't find them anywhere. So, as I usually do, I created some.

Monday, September 18, 2017

EDUCATION: The Bible Project

Yesterday we started a new season of Bible study at church and before we just jumped in and started reading, the pastor is taking some time to teach us about the Bible itself. Sometimes background information about the history of the Bible itself, its writers, the Israelites and their culture, and the language it's written in can make all the difference. We looked at a video resource that is great for people of all ages. Ok, well, maybe not preschoolers or young elementary age children as the vocabulary might be a challenge, but everybody else. It's called The Bible Project and the videos can be found on YouTube or on their own website. I don't know who is writing all the episodes but it's nondenominational so, as with every unknown resource, preview the videos before showing them to make sure they're compatible with your church's beliefs.

Of course, when it comes to the Bible, it's best for people to read it themselves and not just listen to somebody summarize it, so do not use this as a substitute for reading. This is especially true for kids, however, sometimes it helps them to have an overview of what's going on if the reading is challenging. This can be true even at the middle school level. So, if you're using a Bible reading plan for confirmation, some of these may be helpful. The videos are broken up into categories: Series, Themes, Old Testament, and New Testament.

How to Read the Bible - Information to help you read the Bible with greater understanding.
Torah - First five books of the Old Testament about God's covenant with the Israelites.
Gospel - Retells the story of Jesus' life, death, and resurrection.
Wisdom - Proverbs, Ecclesiastes, and Job
Shema (Word Studies) - The shema is a prayer the Jews have prayed for thousands of years. This is a look at the meanings of the words from that prayer.

Themes:  The Covenants, Day of the Lord, Gospel of the Kingdom, Heaven and Earth, Holiness, Holy Spirit, Image of God, The Law, The Messiah, Sacrifice and Atonement, Public Reading of Scripture

Here is the first video in the How to Read the Bible Series.

Monday, September 11, 2017

OUTREACH: Social Media Posts

A lot of churches are writing creative blurbs, publishing quotes, and sharing scripture on social media. Society today is all about marketing and many churches, it seems, have jumped on the bandwagon. The problem is that there's a lot out there that it is false or wrong. Some of the issues are:

Scripture out of context. 
1 Corinthians 15:57 actually says,  "But thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ." Hmmm...

False Doctrine
There is no biblical reference here, but that's because there is no place in the Bible where we are promised that if we survive unfairness or tough times that we will be rewarded with double the stuff we had before.

Incorrect References 
Psalm 34:7 actually says, "The angel of the Lord encamps around those who fear him, and delivers them." The correct reference is Psalm 37:4.

Another problem I've seen is no mention of God, Jesus, or the Bible. If you're marketing an event at your church, you mention the name of the church. If you're trying to strike up a conversation about faith, you point to God, Jesus, faith, the Bible, etc. These examples come from congregations trying to have a media presence.
Can you see a problem with them?

This one looks like great self-help advice. Perhaps it came from Oprah or another talk show helper. You would never know it came from a church, which church, or if it is scripture. The truth is, it's not about YOU. If you want to change your life, you need to follow Christ. He will lead you down the right path.

This one is true. God, the Father, loves us SO much. But then it says that he "just dropped everything that he was doing to tell you so." He dropped everything he was doing? What was he doing? This just doesn't make sense. God loves us far more than taking a moment while watching his favorite tv show or gardening to tell us. He loves us so much that he gave is one and only Son to die for our sins. How about just saying that?

If my pastor asked me to share these I would not. I would, however, share something that points to my church (which will point someone to Christ), to my Bible (which will point someone to Christ), or anything that simply points to Christ.

My whole point is that if you want your members to share something on their social media sites, make it something worth sharing. Something worth sharing POINTS TO CHRIST! You're sharing so that you might have a conversation. About what? About God, who sent His Son, to die for all our sins. Share that!!

Friday, July 21, 2017

CONFIRMATION: New and Updated Free Forms!

Vehicle Visor Bible Verse
I recently updated the free forms that I give away when I give Confirmation workshops. You'll find them under the CONFIRMATION tab. Also, I hope you've already started to update your confirmation curriculum for next year. You can view all the confirmation posts if you use the quick link VIEW POSTS BY CATEGORY at the right. Lots of resources in those 69 posts from cool ideas about memorizing (like the vehicle visor Bible verse shown) to having a better discipline plan or how parents can help.

Teach them well, friends. It's the most important thing they'll ever learn!!

Tuesday, July 18, 2017

CHRISTMAS: Amateur Gingerbread or Cereal Treat Nativity Contest

Being the middle of July, we're getting close to fall, which means we're getting close to Christmas. I posted before about two things I'd like to bring together. People seem to love making gingerbread houses, but they're sometimes a challenge for kids, so I posted on making Christmas cereal treat churches as a silent auction fundraiser. (You can see my attempt below.) I also posted on having a Nativity on Parade, an idea I love as I love seeing everybody's nativity scenes when I visit them. What a cool Advent evening event that could be!

Today I want to bring them together and think it would be a great idea to open up a gingerbread church or nativity contest to the community.

Rice Krispie Church (mine)
Obviously I'm not going to be winning any Christmas baking contest any time soon, but it was fun!

Gingerbread Nativity

Rice Krispie Nativity

Here are some practical ideas or options for your event:
  • Have age categories. (Adult or 18+ years, Teen or 13-17 years, Youth or 9-12 years)
  • Allow teams or partners.
  • Everything (except the base) must be edible. 
  • All structures will be tasted and hopefully eaten with coffee/milk and joy after the competition. 
  • Judge entries on overall appearance, originality and creativity, difficulty or complexity, and taste. Who wants a beautiful gingerbread nobody can eat? 
  • Have forms so everybody can vote, a specific group that will vote anonymously, or both! 
  • Have two categories: gingerbread and/or cereal treats. 
  • Have free beverages and other baked goods (maybe for sale - the youth could make some money). 
  • Combine it with a homemade ornament sale.
  • Get to know your neighbors!!! 
  • Make it fun! Don't make it so serious or formal that people forget to laugh at themselves and each other. Share the joy of the season!

Always be sure to invite the community to an event like this and don't forget to have the pastor share the gospel story for why we celebrate the birth that inspired all these lovely edible treats before the winners are announced.  After the winners are announced, EAT THEM!

Yum! I'm really feeling in the spirit now!

Wednesday, June 28, 2017

SERVICE: Backyard Mission

Summer, the season of youth trips, mission trips, and servant events. Everybody is taking a group out of the country for a great mountain top experience. What fun! We had a great time and we helped!

Yes, but what are we missing in our own backyard? Do we see the needs of those who live across the street from our homes and the church? Those who live around the block? Do we even know their names? Are we so busy doing service overseas that we don't do it in our own backyard because it's not so exciting or because it's so much more difficult to get volunteers to do it?

Start a Backyard Mission

Every congregation should have a Backyard Mission. What's that? It's getting to know and helping your neighbors. If your church is in a neighborhood, do you know the names of the neighbors across the street? Do you know their needs? Have you prayed for them? Have you introduced yourself?

My suggestion is that for a week in the summer, make it a big deal to have groups go around the neighborhood and see if there's something you can do to help them. Then turn it into an ongoing project, not just something you do once a year. After all, how much money does it take to take a group of people overseas to help and how much more further would that money go to help in your own backyard. Try one or all of these:

  • Pray for your neighbor.
  • Fix up a yard.
  • Paint a room or a house.
  • Do a walk around food drive for the local food shelf. 
  • Do a walk around sock drive to prepare for the winter months.
  • Clean up trash in a local park.
  • See what you can do at a local homeless shelter.
  • Work in a community garden.
  • Build a Men's Servant Team.
  • Develop a continuing relationship with a local retirement or nursing home. (They don't just need you at Christmas!)

Make your church known in the community as a church that doesn't just talk about Jesus' love inside the walls, but shows it outside the walls and into your own backyard. Don't show that you only do service in other countries and then come back all pumped up to share your great experience when those around you may be needing that energy and your help. Jesus didn't set up a tent and try to get people to come to him. He went out. We need to go out too... into our neighborhoods and then the rest of the world.

I posted on this subject before here.

Monday, April 24, 2017

SPRING DISCOUNT: The Art of Teaching Confirmation

A great resource for a pastor, DCE, or volunteer confirmation educator!

The Art of Teaching ConfirmationThe Art of Teaching Confirmation
20% OFF Spring Discount Code: XXXXXXXX
SORRY! The Spring Discount has ended...

This book shares the secrets of secondary education with confirmation educators. Maya Angelou said, "Do the best you can until you know better. Then when you know better, do better." In light of what we have learned through research about how children learn, and educational policy and practice it is time now to do better by taking that information and applying it to confirmation. By changing just a few things about how they teach, confirmation educators can bring about a more significant understanding of the Bible and their faith for adolescents and with the help of the Spirit, a more meaningful personal relationship with God and His Son, Jesus Christ. The purpose of this book is to provide insight as to how to help adolescents interact with the information in a more meaningful way at their developmental level.


Ordered it. Read it. Marked it up. Loved it. It's an easy read and full of great, easy to apply tips and tricks for anyone to put into practice. I think you should take all the same logic but expand it to more than just confirmation. Those who teach Bible Studies, or lead Small groups would benefit as well - obviously some of the statistics and research would be different - but especially the quotes from Brain Rules says - this applies to any brain....I'm planning to have this book next to me as a handbook for all my confirmation lesson planning!
– Nathan Erb, Vicar and Minister of Youth & Family Ministries, Resurrection Lutheran Church, Garden City, NY

I learned a lot from reading this book-- everything from the science of the adolescent brain to practical tools and templates. I've been teaching Confirmation for 23 years as a pastor and I found myself nodding in agreement on many things I have stumbled into through experience (could have used her book 20 years ago!) and starring many ideas to use. I particularly liked her classroom management tips, her lesson plan strategies, and her analyzing of the questions we pose in class. In chapter one, she tackles the question: "Parents or pastors?" and I was surprised and challenged by her conclusion. This book offers sound educational theory, a good reminder, a powerful encouragement, and a collection of tools. It is good for the beginner and the seasoned professional.
– Jim Bender, Pastor, Faith Lutheran Church, Topeka, KS
20% OFF Spring Discount Code: TC8NC7H6

Thursday, April 20, 2017

EDUCATION: God's Promises at Baptism DISCOUNT

Introductory 10% Discount

I Am Jesus' Little Lamb: God's Promises at Baptism

When we are baptized God promises us great things! What are they? This book highlights the gifts of baptism and what they mean for those baptized. Add personal information and give a gift of baptismal remembrance. It's a great educational gift that keeps on giving! 

It's also a great book to read for a Children's Message if a child is baptized in the worship service.

Use this website to use the discount code below.
10% Discount Code:  MMC82824

Thursday, April 13, 2017


Find it on Amazon.
My third grandson is being baptized this weekend! In my own family (as it probably is in many) some children are baptized in the Lutheran faith, some are baptized and their parents take them to a non-denominational or reformed Christian church, some have been baptized but aren't taken to church or Sunday School for follow-up education, and some are not baptized at all. More often than not, both inside and outside of the church, people think the role of a godparent is to raise a child upon death of the parents or to be a special life mentor and friend. They miss the true responsibility. Many Lutherans, even those who have been confirmed, cannot tell you what Lutherans believe about baptism or what gifts it brings.

As many people know, I have concern about how the Lutheran church educates its members from cradle to grave. One of the ways I combat my concern is to use my teaching degrees to create resources for the church. I Am Jesus' Little Lamb: God's Promises at Baptism is one of them. It's a book about baptism that can be read to children on their baptismal birthday or any day. It shares information for parents and sponsors about the truth of baptism to clear up some of the beliefs floating around today. It would be a great gift for sponsors, for children being baptized, and for churches to give parents who have their children baptized in their church. 

This will be the first of a series I call Faith Milestones. 
First Milestone: Baptism. Check. 
Second Milestone: First Communion. Stay tuned. 

You can see a few random pages from the book below. 

Friday, March 31, 2017

EDUCATION: Need Something to Challenge Them?

If you need a problem for your youth or adults to struggle with on some random Sunday morning, try this one. I got it from a comment on a blog post (not mine). The blog was about forcing your children to go to church or letting them decide on their own. Here's the challenge:  What do you know about faith and the Bible that can help you respond to this? It might work best if people are broken into groups and share their responses at the end. You might find a lot of good, yet different, responses. Ready? Go!
If I saw a growing minority of people who never ate [went to church], at all, and never suffered any ill effects from it–they never got hungry, never got weak, never missed food in the way we’d expect–I might give up daily eating. It would save a lot of money, after all, if food wasn’t really a need, but only something we’d been taught to THINK we needed. 
If I saw children routinely being hit by cars and not being hurt–and I’m not talking about miraculous near-death brushes, I’m talking about if a child could be hit full-on by a speeding vehicle with no harm, like the child was Superman–then I probably would let my daughter play in the road. 
If science and statistics proved that children learned just as much by NOT going to school as they do by going to school, I wouldn’t make my kids go to school. 
And what of church? Well, the more I learn about the world, the less I see Jesus actually doing anything real. I see there are good people and bad people in Christianity just like there are good people and bad people in other religions, so Christianity isn’t needed to be a good person. I see unhappy Christians and happy non-Christians, so I know Christianity isn’t required for happiness. I see dozens and dozens of examples where the Bible got things wrong, where it looks like God doesn’t even exist–so I have less confidence about the Bible’s predictions of heaven and hell. So no, forcing your kids to go to church isn’t the same as educating them, protecting them from harm, or caring for their most basic bodily needs. It’s just brainwashing, to force them to behave how you want them to behave.

Thursday, March 16, 2017

CONFIRMATION: A New Idea for Old Problems

I would like to propose a new confirmation program and I want to be the one to write the curriculum because those who usually create these things in the LCMS (not sure about other Lutheran denominations) do not do a great job of creating dynamic and meaningful curricula. I'm tired of not stepping on toes, so I'm just putting it out there. I also believe that we do not do an excellent job in educating people of all ages, but that's another issue.

Right now I'm focusing on the problem of confirmation. I won't dig into the issues at this time, but here are a few in a nutshell:

  • Many parents aren't fulfilling their responsibility of training in the home.
  • Parents aren't trained or prepared to teach confirmation.
  • Pastors are not trained how to teach (middle school students or parents)

I propose the following programatic change to address these issues:

  • Parents take a pre-confirmation class going over Luther's Small Catechism and how to teach the faith at home.
  • Daily discussion questions based on the questions in the catechism are sent home every week. 
  • Pastor (who has been trained to teach students that age) teaches 2 year JUNIOR confirmation class as a kick-start to the program. 
  • Pastor and parents meet 4 times a year to discuss how things are going at home, refresh the importance of discussion, life habits, etc.
  • Both parents and students have journals/notebooks to briefly reflect on the topic each week, jot down questions, reflect on highs/lows, etc.
If I really had my way there would be a SENIOR CONFIRMATION the senior year of high school. Each year in high school students should have to complete a benchmark project that makes them think about their faith more deeply, after which they will create a final presentation. Each presentation should answer the questions: What do I believe? Why do I believe it? At the beginning of each year they will study a particular part of the Bible for Sunday Bible study (or if there is a Weds. program) to coincide with a task to be completed such as organizing a church event, a year of specific service inside and outside of the congregation (teach Sunday School all year, visit a nursing home all year, etc.), research the faith journeys of a number of older people in the church to help them see how God works in a life, learn about Lutheran worship and develop a worship service, and prepare a final presentation in an agreed upon format such as an electronic scrapbook, video, slide show, etc. Remember that the point of the final project is to answer the questions: What do I believe? Why do I believe it? Each presentation should include real life examples and scripture. Who would not have a firm foundation after something like this?

Who's willing to try this with me? We'll create the curriculum as we go!!

If you're interested in more thoughts on this, see my previous post: Time for  Paradigm Shift

Monday, March 13, 2017

CONFIRMATION: How Parents Can Help

Parents are the greatest influence in a child's life. They don't need to teach confirmation to be a huge part of the process. (Get a pdf version.) 

How Parents Can Help With Confirmation
  • Pray for your child(ren). Pray for their hearts and their minds to be open to what they hear and learn throughout the process. Pray that God grow their faith and keep them close.
  • Pray with your child(ren). It will have a huge impact on their prayer life and reinforces with them that personal prayer is important. 
  • Attend worship regularly with them. Talk to them about the sermon before they write their response. (You might want to take a few notes on occasion yourself.)
  • Talk to them about your faith and about how having faith affects how you live.
  • Be diligent and supportive in holding them accountable for their memory work. Be sure they repeat it regularly throughout the week so that it truly becomes a part of their memory. (Perhaps make it a family activity that is gone over at dinner every night or every time they get into the car?)
  • Keep track of what they’re learning and ask questions about it. Discussion of the concepts is a huge part of confirming and internalizing what they’ll be learning. 
  • Participate in family discussion questions and be available to answer any questions they might have about your faith. Feel free to contact me if you’re not sure about anything they ask.
  • Participate in adult Bible study. This single activity shows children that you personally find value in learning about God and His Word.
  • Aside from the Holy Spirit, PARENTS are a child’s single greatest influence with regard to faith and whether or not it takes root in their lives.

Tuesday, March 7, 2017

LEADERSHIP: Beautiful Baptism, Confirmation, and Marriage Certificates

My newest grandson is being baptized in a few weeks and I was looking for a more meaningful certificate for both he and his sponsors. I found some that are absolutely stunning! The beautiful certificates (Baptism, Sponsors, Confirmation, Marriage) are the result of the joint efforts of Rev. Bryan Wolfmueller and Jason Hanson. Bryan is an LCMS pastor at Hope Lutheran Church in Aurora, CO, and Jason works as a graphic designer. You can find their beautiful creations at their business website, Wolfson Creative.  

You have to go to their website to see some sample pdf's, but a section sample of the art for the baptismal certificate is below. Check them out!

Friday, March 3, 2017


Image result for the shack
I'm seeing reviews for the movie, The Shack, and most of them talk about how it's not a great movie because it has many Biblical inaccuracies, as well as areas where it speaks to what the Bible doesn't say directly, and fills in with conclusions that have been drawn without consistency with Biblical teachings. Christian reviewers would say, "Don't bother seeing it." I have a different view.

I read the book when it came out because so many people told me how amazing it is/was. True, there are inaccuracies, but there are also little gems where concepts that we all wonder about are explained in a way that makes them easier to understand.

As a Christian educator, I suggest that pastors make this book (or the movie, when it becomes available to the general public) an adult or teen Bible study. I strongly recommend it be a teen Bible study. Why? Because, we need to challenge them. We need to allow them to ask questions. We should not say, "Don't read it." We say instead, "Read it with a critical eye." Read it with them and challenge them to find the inaccuracies. We NEED to teach them to do that on their own so that when they come across these things throughout their lives, their red flags pop up where they should. Ask them: 
  • Where are the Biblical inaccuracies? 
  • Where are the doctrinal untruths? 
  • What strikes you as being wrong here? 
  • What about this particular part of the book is biblically right or wrong?
  • Is there anything here that seems wrong, but you're not sure why?
  • How can we take what's good from this and throw the chaff to the wind?
As Lutherans we have a tendency to tell people not to see it or not to read it instead of teaching them to do so with a filter. We don't give them or strengthen their filter. That's one of our biggest problems, telling people "It's wrong. Don't bother reading/watching it." I say, do it. Read it. Watch it. Do it together. Teach them to take what's good and throw away the chaff. It's important that they learn to think and see false teachings on their own. 

Wednesday, March 1, 2017

EDUCATION: Rethinking How We Teach in the Church (BPM Phoenix)

Last Friday, February 25, 2017, I gave a presentation at the Best Practices for Ministry conference at Christ Church Lutheran in Phoenix. It was a fantastic conference and I feel blessed to have been able to present. My information was well received and I promised I would put it on my website, so here it is!

TITLE: Rethinking How We Teach in the Church

In the presentation I talk about the 2 elephants we don't seem to want to see in the LCMS and why they're a problem.
  1. Church workers (especially pastors) aren't taught to teach.
  2. Current available curricula may be doctrinally correct, but is not educationally effective.
What are we doing wrong? You can hear the whole presentation in 2 parts or just look at the slides in pdf format.

If you, your circuit, or your district are interested in having me in for a workshop, please contact me through this website. We teach the most important thing anybody will hear/learn. Let's do it better! And let's demand better curricula.


Saturday, February 11, 2017

EDUCATION: Bible/World Timeline Resources

When teaching kids (and adults) about the Bible, especially when reading the Old Testament, visuals help. Actually, pictures always increase learning because we remember more when we can attach a picture to words. When I was young my dad had a Bible history timeline that fascinated me because it connected Old Testament events with what was going on in the rest of the world, for example, Daniel lived at the same time as Confucius and Buddha. Dad had this one from Rose Publishing that I found on for about $4. It's not tall, but stretches out and is also available on CD  (about $40) in the form of PowerPoint slides. Actually, Rose Publishing has a number of great resources for Bible maps

There's also another one I've seen recently called the Amazing Bible Timeline. It's a large poster (37" x 45") and is in a circular format. Right now it also comes with a few bonus items: 1) Interactive Maps of the Holy Land that can be downloaded, and 2) Digital Amazing Bible Timeline that is also downloadable for projecting in larger rooms or classes. It's all for about $20 and is worth checking out. I don't know how long the bonuses will be available. 
Bible Timeline
This is the only photo I could find that
shows the whole timeline well.
These can all be used for middle or high school Bible study, adult Bible study, and even would be very beneficial for a sermon. Don't forget the power of visuals in sermons

Friday, February 3, 2017

H.S. YOUTH: Great Faith Sharing Projects

I forgot that I'd made these videos and found them today when I was looking at my YouTube channel (more math videos than anything so don't get too excited). Anyway, kids love creating videos and we need to have them express what they believe in different ways so they become uber comfortable with it; comfortable enough to be able to freely share it. My standard church education goal is to have everybody be able to answer two questions without hesitation.
  1. What do you believe? 
  2. Why do you believe it?
I also want them to be as biblically literate as possible and this is one more way for them to become more familiar with what it says and be able to share it in their own words. You can choose any topic or story, but it can't be completely direct from the Bible. They can and should add a few verses to support what they believe, but it needs to be in their own words.

WARNING! Be careful about your choice of music if you upload your videos to YouTube or elsewhere on the internet. There are copyright laws about using other people's music and YouTube is good at noticing those kinds of things. If you need some public domain photos use Pixabay or Wikimedia Commons, but be careful with Wikimedia. Not everything there is public domain.

Here are a few different video creating/editing tools (but you might be surprised to find that many of your youth already make their own videos):

Windows Movie Maker (only PC)
iMovie (only Apple)
Wondershare Filmora

Video Samples

This one is a sample of how they can create something simple to share the Bible and show that they have an understanding of it. They can choose something from the old or new testaments. I used Screen-cast-o-matic for this one because I used it to create math videos and it's familiar to me. Obviously my art skills are stellar! It was easy to create using a PowerPoint background and stick figures. Sometimes the simpler you make it the easier it is to tell the story! HINT: Let the kids take the time to storyboard their projects and show them to you before they start.

This one is a straight forward slide show I created on It was simple enough to use, but I didn't like the music they had so I took a song from YouTube and added it after it was uploaded. At least I was sure the song was public domain. HINT:  Have kids add photos of themselves or their friends too. They can even write a script and have their friends help.

Thursday, January 26, 2017

PARENTS: Intentionally Pray for Your Children

I recently became a stepmom of 8. About a year ago I got married to a man who has 8 children and two grandchildren. In one rather brief ceremony I became a stepmom and stepgran to now 3 grandchildren! At first I knew I needed to start praying for them and I did, but my prayers seemed all over the place. I thought about what I thought they needed most and wrote a Parent's Prayer. Sometimes, after I pray this one, I include something unique for each child  If a grandparent wants to pray there's one for them too. It's nearly the same thing with a few minor changes.

Downloadable PDF format
Parent's Prayer green
Parent's Prayer blue
Parent's Prayer yellow multi
Grandparent's Prayer multi

Tuesday, January 17, 2017

EDUCATION: Writing Your Faith Journey

I love the idea of writing a faith journey. Most people seem to want children or teens to do this, but I have to start out with a reminder that young children have trouble with this kind of thing. They 1) don't reflect well, and 2) don't have much to reflect on. Even when you're in confirmation at 14, there's not a lot to reflect on. Consider the life of a regular 14 year old confirmation student up to that point: Baptism, hopefully taken to Sunday School regularly, they probably don't recognize life events that affect their faith, and are just beginning to be able to analyze and synthesize cognitively, If they have people in their lives who have played a role in their faith development, they may not be able to verbalize why. They just haven't the maturity and experience to draw on. That's why I do a different project for middle school students. I have them create a faith journey poster. It's not as daunting a task as a paper, not to mention that they're just learning to write papers in middle school. However, if you want them to write a paper at that stage they need a lot of guidance. I've posted on this before and created some resources to help with this.

One of my other issues is that we have kids do these projects at the young age of 14 and then never push them to think about it again. If you want to have high school students think about their faith, challenge them with the same project, but expect a little more from them.

If you really want to challenge, encourage, and uplift the adults in your congregation, create an adult class where they think about these things and write their faith journies. You can start by talking about the faith journies of some people in the Bible. Moses and Abraham would have some great stories to tell. David had quite a faith journey as did Paul. If you go through the process below with the Biblical examples it'll be easier for them to go through it with theirs so they don't include too much or too little. They can include baptism certificates, wedding licenses, photos of friends or family members, or anything that helps them express their journey. Here are some questions to help them get started and a resource.
  • What are your faith milestones? These might be somebody in your family getting sick or dying, a time when you were going through personal struggles, loss of job, divorce, drug addiction/recovery, etc. For some people they may just be a stage of life such as going from elementary school to middle school or from high school to college. There may have been particular experiences in college or after that changed the way you think, feel, or perceive faith or religion.
  • Is there anything in your family history that may have affected your faith journey? For example, my mother’s family did not go to church and after my grandmother died, the lady who married my grandpa was Lutheran and insisted the girls be baptized and go to church.
  • Do you have any certificates that play an important role in your faith journey? These might include baptism or confirmation certificates or experiences, wedding licenses or funeral remembrances. How did they affect your faith?
  • What people in your life have had an impact on your faith?  This could be a pastor, youth leader, parent, family friend, or even a childhood friend. It may also be somebody who affected your life negatively. Who was this person and how did s/he affect your faith?
  • What books or other readings have had an impact on your faith? What did they say that made you consider your faith differently?
  • What stories/accounts from the Bible have inspired you the most and why?
  • What Bible character has a story most like my own? How are they similar?
  • Have you gone through any challenging times or celebrations that may have brought you closer to or drove you away from Christ?
  • What parts of your faith journey are evident in your life today?
  • Where has the journey taken you so far? Describe your faith as it is today.
  • What one word or phrase describes your faith journey and why? Looking at all these things in your life. Is there a pattern?
  • What Bible verse best desribes your faith and why? You may want to look at a topical Bible or concordance for help.

Saturday, January 7, 2017

PARENTS: Choosing sponsors for a Baptism?

I'm noticing more and more that there seems to be confusion about the purpose and roles of sponsors in Lutheran Baptism and thought it was time to help pastors educate people in this matter. With so many different teachings (and the internet), it's not a good idea to assume people know anything relating to the teachings of the church, and baptism, similar to a wedding, is often practiced from a secular standpoint. Some people believe being a godparent is only a legal role regarding guardianship if something happens to the parents, not realizing that the church doesn't have legal authority over such things. Some think it's about having a lifelong special mentor or friend, and some simply consider it an honor. While all of these things may be included, many have no idea that there's a Christian education or faith formation obligation involved.

My husband was recently asked to baptize a child and the parents wanted a non-Christian sponsor. He commented that it would be nice to have something to hand to people in this situation that would briefly explain Baptism and the role of a sponsor from a Lutheran perspective. Based on his comment, I created a brochure for him to use in the future and thought I would share it. While it in no way covers every question regarding Baptism, I hope it helps some of you out there too.

Below is a photo of the brochure, but you can download a pdf version if you prefer. Print it back-to-back. It's a tri-fold.