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.