Tuesday, April 17, 2018

WOMEN: A Day for Women?

This is a post for the ladies. If you're not a lady, please forward this to any lady you know, family members, friends, grown daughters, etc. I need their opinion.

I wonder how many of you have been to a women's conferences?  You know, a conference that focuses on women and their faith. My three sisters-in-law wanted to go to one last year and I'll do anything with them because they're so cool, but I admit I was skeptical.  It was organized by a local Christian radio station and I'm a pretty staunch Lutheran so wasn't sure what I getting into. I decided to have an open mind and focus on what God wanted me to learn from the experience. The speakers were good. There was one in particular who was hilarious! It was a one day conference and I think there was one break-out session. That's where my disappointment lived.

Most of the break-out sessions were craft projects, coloring (and I mean coloring, not Bible journaling with color), prayer, there was one on human trafficking, and I chose one about ministering to adult children, because I married a man with 8 children all teenagers, young adults, and adults. I wanted some ideas about how I can be a blessing to them. What I got was a grandma who talked about her family and how much she loves them for an hour. Those who went to the human trafficking session said they talked about it, but didn't offer any real advice or help on the topic. It seemed to me that those who were leading the sessions had no expertise in anything at all. So, when I got home I contacted the radio station and asked if they would consider having a few sessions that went deeper or offered something a little bit meatier.

Fast forward to this year. There are 18 options, more crafts and coloring, and more prayer, but nothing deeper. Now, I believe in prayer and the power of prayer, but for a conference like this to have 4 or 5 sessions about prayer, 10 on coloring and crafts, and a few about looking at contemporary Christian music lyrics, just wasn't doing it for me. Then I thought... maybe that's what women want. Maybe their evaluations told them that women who show up to this conference want to color.

Fast forward again to today. I want to know what you think, what you would want at a conference like this, and how far you would be willing to travel to a conference if one was available that you thought would increase your faith.

If you are, or know a woman who would be willing, please forward this survey to them.

Link to send -  https://goo.gl/forms/1PX0yq64oWDQad2J3

Sorry, but the embedding isn't working. Please use the link.

Saturday, April 7, 2018

EDUCATION: The Elephant in the Church

A few years ago I wrote an article that I hoped would be published in an LCMS publication. It wasn't, so here it is. 
The Elephant in the Church 
There is an elephant in the church that people keep looking at, touching, and talking about, but nobody wants to push it or poke it to get it to move. It has been there for a while and nobody is really sure what will happen if we try to change it, so we put a tablecloth on it and try to make it look like something else. After all, how do you move an elephant that has been there for a while and is comfortable where it sits? That elephant is congregational education and to move it would mean change, trying something different, and messing with tradition.

We all read the same Bible literacy studies that show the decline in Bible knowledge in the U.S. and we all know that in our congregations Sunday school and Bible study attendance is at an all-time low. Of course, we tell ourselves it’s not our problem. It’s not in my church. The pastor educates well and we have Sunday school, VBS, and regular Bible studies. It is not us… or is it? Do we know what we do not know about education?

The content in the Lutheran church has always been strong. It’s how we teach, not what we teach that’s the problem. We have learned a lot about education, the brain, how children and adults learn, and what effective and meaningful instruction is in the past 50 years. Do we apply that information to our education practices?
  • Is our instruction meaningful or have we slipped into the belief that we have to entertain in order to educate? 
  • Are we educating for information alone or for application and understanding? 
  • Do we challenge the thinking of teenagers, young adults and adults? 
  • Do we train pastors how to educate middle school students effectively, how to practice appropriate classroom management, how to find out if students understand the incredibly valuable information they are sharing? 
  • Do we hold confirmation students accountable for what they are learning or give them a pass if they've shown up? Can they share what they've learned in their own words?
  • Do we expect confirmation students to read the Bible or just short passages in it? 
  • Why do we treat confirmation as if it is graduation? 
  • Do we train volunteer teachers regarding the developmental level of their students and how they best learn? 
  • Do we understand how important repetition is for long-term understanding? 
  • Do we train pastors how to engage adults in meaningful discussion? 
  • Do we publish materials that inform, engage, and challenge beliefs? 
  • Do we allow people to struggle with spiritual truths or tell them what they should think and believe? 
  • Do we follow in Martin Luther’s footsteps in asking, “What does this mean?” or do we tell people what it means first? 
The first step to solving any problem is admitting there is a problem; admit there is an elephant in our church. Our content is exemplary. Our methods could use work. The next step is to stop coming up with reasons why we shouldn’t poke or push the elephant and provide the information and tools teachers need, so the passion of teaching His people about His Word is ignited as we teach students of all ages “to observe all that I (Jesus) have commanded you.” (Matthew 28:20)

We are blessed with the ability to look at how we educate with new eyes and make it more relevant and meaningful by engaging and challenging the people and watching the Spirit grow their faith. The question is, will we take the tablecloth off of the elephant and give it a good shove or will we continue to tell ourselves we’re doing okay? 

Tuesday, March 6, 2018

EDUCATION: Gospels & Acts Workbooks

FINALLY!! I've finally finished the middle school workbook for the Gospels and Acts and I also updated the middle school Old Testament workbook. (Answers are intentionally not included so that students feel free to share their thoughts, allowing leaders to discover what the students think or believe about what they’ve read. It will also enhance discussion and help leaders to know when students are misunderstanding what they’re reading.)

Gospels & Acts Description (sample)
Find it on Amazon.
The Gospels and Acts Reading Plan and Workbook for Middle School is a one year, 33 week reading plan with comprehension questions. It tells the story of Jesus’ ministry through the gospels and Acts, up to Paul’s first missionary journey.

It begins with the Gospel of John as it is written in a more theological than a logical or chronological style. Following are the three synoptic gospels, Matthew, Mark, and Luke, which are compiled to give a complete, but not redundant reading experience. The plan ends with the first part of Acts. The questions are primarily written to give students an idea of what Jesus was telling the people. They are not meant to be all encompassing or theologically comprehensive in nature. They are meant to get students thinking about what they are reading and what is happening in each account.

The first page contains information about the gospels and their writers describing how they are similar, different, and their intended audience. There are also both student and parent instructions as well as recommended implementation and tips on the art of leading discussion.
There is also a cool project, Bible Culture in the New Testament, included in this workbook! Students have the opportunity to gain a deeper understanding of the culture of the time by researching and presenting a cultural topic they find interesting such as: food and cooking, fashion, music, schools/learning, government, etc. A list of options is in the appendix. 
This book is also available on this website in pdf form. It is $75 and can be photocopied as needed for each member in a class.

Old Testament Description (sample)

The Old Testament Bible Reading Plan and Workbook for Middle School is developed from the 70 Most Important Events in the Bible (http://www.angelfire.com/il/lcms/events.html), It is a one year, 33 week reading plan with comprehension questions.The reading plan begins with creation and ends with the rebuilding of the temple. 
Find it on Amazon.
Reading them in order, students will gain a better understanding of how the smaller stories create the bigger story of God’s plan of salvation for his people, and an overall understanding of the story of God's relationship with the Israelites. This book also contains both student and parent instructions as well as recommended implementation and tips on the art of leading discussion.
There is a cool project, an Old Testament timeline, for students in this book. Each week they study, they create a timeline. They can create a book individually or create a wall timeline. Each week a new piece of the Old Testament story will be posted down a hallway so that by the end of the year anyone who walks down the hall will learn about God's love through his relationship with the Israelites. 
This book is also available on this website in pdf form. It is $75 and can be photocopied as needed for each member in a class.

Sunday, March 4, 2018

SERVICE: Homeless Bags

When I pass somebody standing on the corner asking for help I feel terrible. I want to help and have done so before, but am always cautious of handing out cash. I heard that some people create "blessing bags" or backpacks for the homeless and I've seen the lists of what people put in them. They give about 20 things like cans of tuna, a few crackers, mouth wash, lotion, and bottles of water. Those seem to be a little much for me. Somebody also told me their child created bags to donate as a service project and some people carry them in their car to hand out to those they meet on the corner holding up signs. I LOVE that idea. I always want to help, but I don't want to give cash or, on the other hand, spend a lot of time packing up and giving them a bunch of things they may not want. When I pass someone standing on the corner I simply want to hand it out the window.

Here's what I am putting in my quart size ziplock bag:

  • $5 McDonalds gift certificate (there's a McDonalds in every town)
  • small comb
  • 1 pr socks (I can't imagine no socks or cold, wet feet)
  • travel toothbrush and paste 
  • card with an encouraging Bible verse and my church info on it
That's it! Why not all the other stuff? Because I think there's a difference between donating something to a shelter and handing it out to someone standing on the corner. There are a million lists of things online that you can use if you're donating bags to a shelter and, if you need a service project, by all means that's a good one. But if you just want something to have in your car that will provide a meal, warm, dry feet, and a bit of encouragement from our Lord, then this is a way to do it. 

Monday, January 8, 2018

BAPTISM: I Am Jesus' Little Lamb

"A far cry from a signed certificate. What a great way to commemorate a baptism. It is not just a signature on a form, but an explanation of the significance and importance of having been baptized in a form kids will appreciate as they grow older." (Amazon Reviewer) 

Find book on Amazon. Click here.

See sample pages below.
One of the gifts we receive is the Holy Spirit.

Information from the parent section. Good information for godparents.