Friday, September 21, 2018

H.S. YOUTH: Think Tank

I saw a video the other day on a site called Table Talk from the Hope Channel. It's four guys at a table who are told to bring a Bible and their brain. When they arrive they're provided a list of topics and told to discuss. There are no scripts and no rules. All I could think about is HOW COOL that would be to get the youth talking and having to defend their beliefs. Here's how it would work.

Think Tank

A card table and 4 chairs sit in the middle of the room (the Think Tank). The remaining students sit around the table. If you have a large number of students you'll want to break them up into groups so that you have more than one set of table and chairs. 

VARIATION: Put students in teams of 4. One sits in the chair and the other 3 sit behind him/her for support. They will work as a team.

The goal of this exercise is to have students discuss statements surrounding a provided topic. The students surrounding the table, or on the same team, will provide questions or information to the one in the seat to defend their belief, refute or challenge the other 3 sitting at the table. After a chosen amount of time, the person sitting at the table rotates and a new topic is chosen until everyone has had a chance to sit at the table.

Students are asked to bring their Bibles, Small Catechisms, and their brains. Instead of only giving them general topics, they are also given challenge statements. Reasons and or examples must be given for what they say. For example, if a student says, “God created evil,” he/she must also say why they believe that. 

Materials:  Students will need pencils/pens and paper. I would cut letter paper into fourths. 

Process:  Four students are sitting around a table with their Bibles and catechisms. The rest of the students are sitting around or behind them with their books and paper/pencils. They are not allowed to speak, but can pass notes. The leader/teacher introduces the topic. S/he then has a statement written on a piece of paper and reads it aloud. Each student takes a turn responding to the statement. Many of the statements are right or wrong depending on the situation or perspective. Remember that students need to respond with support of their statement. After each person has a turn responding, the students behind or circling the table can write down questions or statements furthering the discussion and pass them to their teammate or, if no teams, anyone at the table. They may also help with support, if needed. If necessary, the teacher/leader can push by asking related questions and if students are headed off in the wrong direction can step in to steer them toward the truth, especially if they veer off into social or political talk without biblical support. Some topics can become great discussions. At the end of the class or after each question, take a minute to do a wrap up so students don't leave questioning a biblical truth or where the Bible stands on an issue.

Also, you can have students send you topics they want to discuss as long as they remain in a biblical context. 

Topics to Get You Started

Good God – Bad World
            God created evil.
            Evil’s existence helps the world find God.
  The world is full of evil because God is testing us.
            God should stop evil in the world.

God is Love
            Love is accepting everything no matter what.
            Love is accepting everyone no matter what.
            If God loves everyone then everyone will be in heaven.
            Love includes discipline.
            God loves you no matter what you believe.

God’s Law
            The law is just mean and nobody needs it.
            If we’re forgiven the law doesn’t matter.
            The law leads people to the gospel.
            I can’t follow the law, so why try?
            I don’t have to follow the law to be a good Christian.

            Baptism saves you. That’s all you need.
            If you’re baptized you cannot lose your faith.
            Baptizing babies is wrong.
            We are baptized to show God our faith.

            If I don’t repent I won’t go to heaven.
            My sins are forgiven, I don’t need to repent.

            Evolution and creation can fit together.
            God’s days are longer than our days.
            Evolution makes more sense than creation.
            Believing God created the world takes more faith than evolution.
            Evolution has been proven.

Holy Communion
           The Lord's Supper is something everyone should be allowed to take.
           Telling people they can't take communion at your church is mean.
           I can take communion at my friend's church.
           The Lord's Supper is something we can do without thinking. Just do it!

The 10 Commandments
          The hardest commandment to keep is...
          The easiest commandment to keep is...
          Breaking the commandments really has no effect on my life.
          There are no consequences for not following God’s law.

Friday, September 14, 2018

EDUCATION: Leading Adult Bible Study

I've posted before on adult Bible study in a post called It's Not What You Teach - It's How You Teach and another called A Sage on the Stage?  They are full of information about adults and learning and tips about teaching adults. Then I went to a few adult Bible studies at my church and realized that the people teaching my classes had not read those two posts. It's not funny to respond in a way that makes people not want to participate. It's not engaging to ask questions and be met with silence because nobody can answer them or are so obvious everybody knows the answer. Asking questions that promote discussion is a skill that can be learned. I love the people teaching the classes, don't get me wrong, but how did we get to this place in the church where adult Bible study can be painful to sit through and yet we still don't do anything different?

There are a few things that typically go wrong when facilitating adult Bible study.
  • Leaders prepare slides and read them. 
  • Leaders just talk while participants sit and listen. 
  • Leaders ask questions that stifle discussion. 
  • Leaders aren't sure how to stimulate discussion. 
  • Leaders are afraid of the questions participants might ask. 
  • Leaders unknowingly respond to questions or comments in a way that makes people not want to participate. 
In response to my previous posts and this one, I created a document that can be given to those who lead/facilitate adult Bible study in the church. It's called Tips for Teaching Adults. Please share it with those who volunteer to teach adults at your church. It will encourage them and give them confidence. Find more information on teaching adults in my book, The Art of Teaching the Faith: Preschool to Adult on Amazon.

Tuesday, September 11, 2018

LUTHERAN SCHOOLS: Morning Meeting Anyone?

I know a number of elementary teachers who use Responsive Classroom's Morning Meeting to start the day. It's a great way to start on a positive note and it helps focus students. Lutheran school teachers may start out with devotions and a prayer. The devotions are usually a short story from a devotion book. But what if we could adapt the Morning Meeting to a Lutheran/Christian school? Well, that's just what I did.

The photo is small, but you can download it here.

Monday, September 10, 2018

EDUCATION: DIscussion Strategy #2

One of the most effective learning strategies is discussion. It gets people interacting with the material, asking questions about the material, and hearing multiple opinions. We often forget that academic discussion needs to be structured and facilitated. Most adults have experienced discussion as a teacher/facilitator talking and asking questions while a few outspoken students respond. This is not effective discussion. What you want is to have students discuss while you listen, observe, and consider next steps. Here is another way to get more out of your discussion. Again, the success of these strategies is dependent on the size and age of your class. Some of these are great for adults too, but they're not used to them. They're not used to discussion. I LOVE doing this activity in Youth Bible class and it can go on for weeks!!

Bring Your Catechism

Have students sit in groups of 3 or 4 and have each group choose a name (or just give them a number, but kids, you know, they like to name their groups). They are going to respond to some questions that a non-believer might ask. Have the questions prepared in advance and have them in a can or jar or hat that you can pull them out of randomly. Give each group one question that they will ask another group. In their final response, each group is required to have at least 2 Bible verses to support their response. They may discover that the questions and answers in the back of the catechism are very helpful.

Round 1:  Each group receives a question and spends time coming up with a good answer. It MUST be in their own words and have 2 supporting Bible verses.

Some questions might be:
  • Why doesn't the church down the street baptize babies? 
  • Why are babies baptized if they haven't sinned yet?
  • If God is love, what's wrong with being gay? 
  • Why doesn't God like gay people? 
  • Why doesn't your church have women pastors? 
  • Why can't my friends go to communion with me? 
  • If we're all saved then why do we need to follow the commandments?
  • Why do Catholics confess to a priest and we don't?
  • If God knows everything, why do we have to confess our sins at all? 
  • Why should I pray?
(If you really want to challenge them, do the same thing with questions atheists ask.)

Give 5-10 minutes for students to come up with an answer for their question.

Round 2:  After each group gives their answer, let the other groups add points or ideas to their answer.

Round 3:  Let each group pick a different question and answer it based on what they learned.

Wednesday, September 5, 2018

ALL SAINTS DAY: Children's Message

This is so good I need to REPOST!

All Saints Day will be coming up pretty quickly. We're talking about all the saints who have gone before us and we have a number of pretty young children who don't really understand the ideas of death, saints, and heaven. They're pretty concrete thinkers. So, I suggested to my pastor that he hand out little paper trumpets or kazoos and let the kids celebrate all the people who are in heaven with Jesus and that we will be there with them some day too.

You can add a short Bible verse too, and let the kids walk around a bit playing their horns and shouting the verse or something along the lines of "In God's house there's a room for me!" or, "When we die we go to heaven!" This way, whenever they play the horn or kazoo, hopefully, they'll remember what they said too!

Another option is to get the rest of the congregation involved. Perhaps they could all sing I Sing a Song of the Saints of God and for the last verse the kids could play their horns as the congregation sings.

Tuesday, September 4, 2018

H.S. YOUTH: Locker Magnets

This is so good it's time to REPOST!

Romans 10:17
So faith comes from hearing, and hearing from the Word of Christ. 

Ever been on Pinterest?  People pin all kinds of inspirational quotes.  Some funny, some serious, and some intresting paraphrases of Bible verses.  We seem to like soundbites and lyrics and slogans.  We remember them and replay them in our minds constantly.  Well, let's take that idea and instead of a poorly paraphrased Bible verse or something out of context, let's give kids the real thing, and since I'm all about finding ways for kids to carry Jesus with them and using Him as their support system, I say, make inspirational locker magnets!  They can give support and encouragement every time a student opens his/her locker throughout the day and soon enough that verse will be stuck in their minds.  Be sure to let them know that if a friend thinks they're cool and wants one that more are available.  Also, try not to let them take popular verses out of context.  Psalms and Proverbs are a great place to start!

 There are many different ways this can be done.  Here are a few:

  • Make them and give them as gifts at the beginning of the school year.
  • Have an event where kids get together to make their own.  Be sure they use real Bible verses (including the reference) and not popular quotes.
  • Develop a few theme verses the kids may like to use and memorize for the semester.  Make large posters for the youth room and locker magnets for the kids. 
  • Make the activity part of a Bible study about keeping the Word close to
    your heart and why it's important to use God's words IN CONTEXT instead of catchy quotes that may be inspiring but may not be Biblical.
Remember that the more often they see God's Word (the magnets) and read them, the better they will remember it later... Brain Rules (John Medina).