Tuesday, October 20, 2020

CHRISTMAS: In a Covid World

Christmas services are usually our most attended services of the year, especially those that involve the children. In this time of Covid, people keep asking what others are planning this year. We certainly want it to be as special and a celebration of the birth of our Lord. Here are a few options that I've come up with. 

Christmas by the Children

With technology today it is super easy to take pictures of the children in costumes at home, and just as easy to do video. Give each child a part and have them say it in costume at home. Depending on how many children there are each can have their own part. You can also do a Zoom choir of them singing Christmas songs. 

A really great idea (at least to me) is to have parents take a video of their kids telling the Christmas story. 

Another option: If you'd like to create a special gift for parents, take a few moments to ask kids questions about God, Jesus, the Holy Spirit, and various people or situations in the Bible such as the birth of Christ and compile their answers into a book to give parents for Christmas or as an "end of the year" gift. What a beautiful snapshot of what their kids believe at that moment! Remember not to change any of their answers to make them more entertaining or more humorous. That is not the point. They need to be authentic and you might be surprised at the depth of some of the answers!

Here's a simple sample of what a page in a book might look like but I am positive there are many creative scrapbook loving women in the congregation who would love to help put something like this together.

Christmas on the Road

One year we created the story of Christmas by lining up different places to take photo/video of the kids in costume around the county. We took pics of kids on donkeys, in the country walking on a donkey, shepherds with sheep, in a stable, in a wild garden (arboretum), as angels against the sky, and anything else we could think of to get the kids involved. We even found a place that wasn't too far away that had camels for the wisemen! If there was a scene we couldn't figure out we had the kids create drawings. 

A lot of organization is required for this one, especially on photo shoot day. That's the day when everyone goes to take their photos/videos. Places need to be researched and appointments made, maps and/or directions need to be printed, costumes need to be picked up, etc. 

It was unusual, but so much fun! 

The Old Time Radio Christmas

This year we're doing an Old Time Radio Christmas. I'm writing the script right now and the youth are really excited. The one thing I didn't think about is that they had no idea what an old time radio show was. They hadn't seen anything like it. The reason I'm doing this is so that we don't have to worry about staging, costumes, or memorization and we can get away with fewer rehearsals. Not to mention that many boys have volunteered and are really excited about doing the sound effects. 

Have fun and MERRY CHRISTMAS!!

Friday, September 25, 2020

YOUTH: Geocaching Prayer Adventure

A couple of years ago I wrote a Prayer Hike for the Environmental Learning Program at Camp Omega in Waterville, MN. Campers were given a map and were to hike to designated places. At that place they would find a Bible verse, an activity, and a prayer. ELP students were given a journal and part of the experience included questions which required a response. Ever since then I've tried to figure out how to provide the same experience for the youth and families at my small church in my small town. There aren't enough contemplative areas nearby to do a meaningful hike. Then a college friend told me she started geocaching and BINGO! An idea was born. What about a Geocaching Prayer Adventure in the time of Covid?

Geocaching is simply using your phone and coordinates to find a cache that's been hidden. It can be posted on your church website or the information can be picked up at the church. 

Here's how to do it: 
  1. Choose your locations carefully. If you're going to use private property make sure you get permission to do so. Do not use transportation hubs as unmarked packages may be considered dangerous and destroyed.
  2. Choose your container carefully. Make sure the lid won't pop off easily if an animal plays with it. Also, make sure it's big enough for everything you need to put in it. Choose a color that helps the container blend in with its surroundings. Don't make them so small that nobody can find them.
  3. Create your cache. Most cache's contain a log book (small notebook), geocaching congratulatory note with directions (sample note), pen/pencil, and perhaps a small trinket to swap. Place items that can be ruined by moisture in a ziplock bag inside the container. Label the outside of the container so that those not participating know not to pick it up and take it with them or throw it away. 
  4. Sample cache. First stop on list (does not have to be done first): 
    1. Bible verse card. (read aloud) What am I to do? I will pray with my spirit, but I will pray with my mind also; I will sing praise with my spirit, but I will sing with my mind also.  1 Corinthians 14:15 ESV 
    2. Activity. SHARE with your group one thing you do or will do to praise and thank God each morning. Together shout, THANK YOU GOD! 
      JOURNAL (write/answer): How do you think starting your day with a simple prayer thanking and praising God for what He does for you each day will change your day?  
    3. Prayer card. Dear God, we love you and praise you for everything you have done and continue to do for us even though we do not deserve it. We ask that you guide us this night and bring us closer to you for the sake of your son, Jesus Christ, Amen. 
    4. Sticker. Add the sticker to your passport/journal. 
    5. Log your name(s) in the log book for the leader to retrieve later. 
  5. Camouflage your cache by using camouflage containers or finding a way to color it so that it blends in with the area in which it will hide. Don't make them too easy for people to find. It ruins the fun and challenge. 
  6. Write down the coordinates! If this is a short-term bit of fun (give your group a couple of weeks to find all your caches) keep a chart or table with written directions of where it is hidden so you can easily retrieve it. 
  7. Participants will need to carry a few things with them in a tote bag or backpack: cell phone with a map app or gps locator, water bottle, writing utensil, prayer journal (pick up at church). 

Monday, September 14, 2020

FAMILY: Tea Time with Jesus

My niece decided to homeschool her 3 young girls this year instead of have them do online learning. It's a brave choice and a lot of work. To introduce them to poetry she started having Tea Time with Poetry once a week. What a great idea!! It made me think, what about Tea Time with Jesus? What if, once a week or even once a month Moms sat down with their girls and had Tea Time with Jesus? They could take time to connect (What's God doing in your life?), read scripture, talk about it, pray, and Mom could share her faith. They could go to a coffee shop, meet with a family friends or extended family members and talk about life and Jesus while drinking tea and eating biscuits or something. If you can't do it weekly, make it a special monthly event that they never want to miss. It'll strengthen their faith and their relationships. Moms will find that their girls are more calm and face life with greater courage and confidence.

What about the boys? Boys need time with their dads to learn how to be strong, faith-filled, God-fearing men who have a strong desire to lead their family. They could do tea time too, but they can also go out for burgers or a beverage of their choice. Call it Food and Faith or something more clever. They too can pray, talk about where God is in their lives, read scripture and talk about it.

Your older kids may be resistant at first, but if you're firm and keep going, don't let them make excuses and let them off the hook, it'll be one of the things they'll talk about their whole adult lives. Know that God will work in their hearts if you don't give up.

What if you don't have kids? Treat yourself! Choose a quiet place where you can sit down and talk to God with a hot cup of tea, iced tea, or another beverage of your choice and a special treat that you only have during this time with God, reading His word. Reconnecting. Refocusing. Reminding yourself of your purpose. Reinvigorating your life. 


Wednesday, September 2, 2020

EDUCATION: Sing the Faith

I just discovered a great YouTube resource to help kids memorize the Small Catechism. It's called Sing the Faith. Check it out below. 

Saturday, August 29, 2020

SPIRITUAL LIFE: Daily Bible Reading - It's About a Habit

A habit is a developed or acquired pattern of behavior and humans are creatures of habit. It’s how our brains work. The brain is our most amazing and complex organ. “The more often you perform an action or behave a certain way, the more it gets physically wired into your brain” (Oppong, 2018).

Good and bad habits are developed in the same way; repetition. The brain, however, doesn’t know good habits from bad. “Habits are the brains internal drivers” (Oppong, 2018), which is why new habits can be difficult to start – there is no history of repetition; and why old habits are difficult to break – there is a history of repetition. 

Think about your day or year. We develop morning habits and bedtime habits. We develop schedules and routines at work or at school. We typically celebrate holidays in the same way each year and call them traditions. How we react to certain situations is also learned behavior that’s been repeated over time. Going to church is a habit (that was broken for us due to Covid-19 and may be difficult for some to get back into) and we can make reading the Bible regularly a habit as well.

So, how do we start a new habit of reading the Bible?
Tip 1: Pray about it. Ask the Spirit of God (whose whole purpose is things like this) to support and encourage you in this challenge and to bring you new and deeper understanding of God’s word. NEVER underestimate the power of prayer, especially for something like this. 

Tip 2:
Recognize that you’re going to have to consciously think about doing it a number of times to make and strengthen those brain connections until the pattern is developed. Put your Bible in a place where you have to look at it every day and read in that place. Please, make it a place where you will have the fewest distractions.

Tip 3: Predict the obstacles that the great liar may put in your path to success and find ways around them. If your kids need you at a particular time in the morning or evening, don’t choose that time as your reading time. Don’t try to wake up earlier to read if you’re not a morning person and will hit that snooze for 10 more minutes. If you use public transportation use a Bible app and read while you ride.

Tip 4: Getting started is the hardest part. Nobody runs a marathon without working up to it. Don’t start reading a difficult book like one of the Major Prophets or Revelation. These are difficult to read and you will find yourself frustrated. Find a reading program that starts with shorter verses that can be read easily. Whatever list you're going to use, print it out and keep it in your Bible.

Tip 5: Embrace the process and pat yourself on the back each time you succeed. Thanks be to God! 

Tip 6: If you miss a day don’t think you’ve failed and should just stop. It’s just one day and tomorrow is another day. You haven’t failed unless you quit.

Tip 7: Find a reading buddy and hold each other accountable. Be honest about your progress. Text each other every day to ask what each of you learned from or thought about the reading. Encourage each other to continue even if you miss a day or two. 
Research done by the Journal of Clinical Psychology found that about 54% of people who vowed to change a habit through a New Year resolution failed within six months. Don’t be that person! Enthusiasm at the beginning is common. Commitment is the challenge. You can do this and it will absolutely change your attitude and perspective of life, strengthen your faith, and encourage you daily!


Norcross, J. C., Mrykalo, M. S., & Blagys, M. D. (2002). Auld lang Syne:
 Success predictors, change processes, and self-reported outcomes of New Year's resolvers and nonresolvers [Abstract]. Journal of Clinical Psychology, 58(4), 397-405. doi:10.1002/jclp.1151

Oppong, T. (2018, June 15). The Neuroscience of Change: How to Train Your Brain to Create Better Habits. Retrieved August 29, 2020, from https://medium.com/swlh/to-break-bad-habits-you-really-have-to-change-your-brain-the-neuroscience-of-change-da735de9afdf

Monday, August 17, 2020

RALLY SUNDAY: Church Family Feud docs

 We're planning on playing Church Family Feud on Sunday School rally day and people were asking about it on Facebook. It wouldn't let me upload the files so I'm going to put them here. The game template was created by rusnakcreative.com and it's fabulous! I just changed the titles by adding the word CHURCH. Make sure that when you download it that you also download the Fast Money template. 

I created a google form to do a survey of church questions and put it on Facebook and that worked great, though I have a feeling a lot of people who responded haven't seen the game. 

If you want to see how mine ended up I uploaded it to my Google drive and you can check it out here. It's super easy to use and I can't wait to try. It's going to be so much fun!

Monday, July 13, 2020

CONFIRMATION: Online Final Exam

This year,due to the disruption of Covid-19, we ended up creating a final exam for the students to take online. We wanted ot use Google Forms and had a few concerns though: 
  1. We only had the 8th graders for one year and didn't know what they learned from the previous pastor, so there are parts of the test that were simplified.
  2. We chose to have them test at home, but knowing kids, wanted to make sure they didn't test on their own, so we sent each test to a parent email with very direct instructions. 
  3. We wanted the test to be timed and to count any instances that students left the site because it would be more difficult for them to look elsewhere for online help. We used timify.me for this and it worked very well. 
  4. We didn't want it to be too long, but also wanted it to be comprehensive. 
As an educator, what I've noticed working with pastors is that they more often ask questions to illicit information, especially from confirmands. They want their students to be able to recite back what they've memorized, which may be why so many still like a questioning night. I prefer there's a deeper understanding and finding out what they are thinking just as much as what facts they can recite back. Some will say that if they get it in their head/heart that they'll carry it with them, which is true, if they truly memorize it, reviewing it over time and not just once one week in a span of a 2 year course. 

It's easy and really beneficial to add answers to the simple questions so that they grade themselves, but you will want to look at the short and longer responses. If you add short answers you may find that the program expects them to match a little too closely to grade them well. I've shortened the number of questions in a couple of sections because we didn't teach those and didn't want to penalize students for past teachers. Look at the test via this link. 

Remember: when kids are working online it's on the honor system. We can remind in instructions and ask parents to oversee, but we'll never know what happens. If there's a little cheating going on, it's not the end of the world. After you grade each test (you can add comments) you can let students see their results and send an email to parents (check the email at the beginning of the exam). I simply let a couple of students know that the pastor would be contacting them before the service.  

 Take a peek below. 

Saturday, June 20, 2020

CONFIRMATION: Worship Connections

Confirmation notes, reports, reflection, or whatever they're called at your church can be a challenge. Along with asking students to identify the law/gospel, what the main point of the sermon was, I have seen questions like:

  1. What was the law (shows our sin)? What was the gospel (shows our Savior)?
  2. What was your favorite part of worship today? 
  3. What did your parent(s) find interesting or thought provoking?
  4. How would you change today's service? 
  5. What was the "theme" of the service? 
  6. How is what you heard in the sermon going to change your life? 

I've used some of those questions too. In the law they never ask a witness a question to which they don't know the answer. I have a similar motto for sermon questions. Before you put them on a form, ask yourself how the kids will answer; keeping in mind that they're 13-14 years old. Then look at the answers they're giving and ask yourself if doing this is getting you what you hope for.

My next question is... how are they doing with that? First of all, listening and writing cannot be done at the same time. Listening, reading questions, thinking, and writing is so much harder. Middle schoolers are not taught how to take notes from a lecture. When they get notes at school they come written on a slide or white board and thinking about them is not required: write now, think later.  As for the others:

  • Determining law and gospel can be hard for some adults, much less kids, especially when the pastor keeps talking. Imagine what's going on in their heads, "Was that the law?" Student writes. "Wait a minute, what did he just say?" and the pastor never pauses. Of course, students are not dumb. Many will simply write "we can't do it on our own" for the law; and "Jesus is the anwer" for the gospel. It's not wrong, but it's not what you're hoping.
  • Most students write these reports or notes during the sermon, which means they miss at least some of what the pastor is saying, and/or whatever happens next in the worship service. 
  • Middle school kids are just learning to go deep. They are commonly looking for straight forward answers and love to fill-in blanks. Their brains won't be fully developed for 10 years. Asking them to think deeply about a sermon, pay attention as they finish the service, and turn-in their paper before they leave assures some very short answers. Students who give long answers probably did their report during the rest of the service. 

With many pastors posting their services, or at least their sermons, on social media via video, blog, or podcast, students can go back and listen again at home. However, since confirmation isn't a graded class. and many pastors have trouble holding students accountable, they will usually write whatever comes to mind and hand it in right after worship and it will be accepted.

My suggestion, and what I'm switching to next year, is to stop doing worship or sermon notes or reports and start doing Worship Connections. I'm going to try to connect the readings to each other and the sermon by looking ahead and asking some questions about the readings and the service. Download an example here.

My first one is below. The picture below is difficult to read. It may be easier to download the copy through the link above.

Wednesday, June 10, 2020

The Art of Teaching Confirmation RESOURCES

Resources to go with
The Art of Teaching Confirmation 
will be out this summer!! 

Resources go with Luther's Small Catechism (CPH, 2017) and are NOT A CURRICULUM. They are downloadable and are intended to enhance whatever curriculum you have created or purchased so that students  interact with the information in a meaningful way. Some of the resources are: 

Student Workbook
Workbooks can be printed/copied and put in binders or bound as desired. Teachers can choose which resources they want to use and print only those for each student workbook.

  • Graphic organizers for note-taking including discussion questions.
  • All chosen worksheets
Leader's Manual
Each manual includes helpful administrative information and forms, Each of the 6 chief parts includes note-taking pages and a variety of other resources:
  • Administrative forms such as student info cards, progress checklists, a progress report form, and two lesson plan forms.
  • Information about the purpose of memorizing scripture and how it can be successful, parent participation, classroom tips, and more.
  • Memory work forms, progress checklist, and how to do memory challenges. 
  • Graphic organizers for note-giving including discussion questions.
  • Table Talk - questions to get students talking about each topic at the beginning of class.
  • Discussion question cards 
  • Notes quizzes 
  • Family discussion questions
  • Two Sermon Connection forms
  • Scenarios for students to discuss real life isues. 
  • Final Project ideas, directions, and samples, including essay outlines if that's the chosen project. 
If you're interested in seeing a sample, use the form below and I'll send them in as soon as they are available:

Friday, May 8, 2020


I've been hearing about a lot of people who've had a number of students and parents ask why they (or their kids) need to go through confirmation classes, especially if they're not required for salvation. My suggestion is to write some Frequently Asked Questions and answers for your website. Many people already have done that, but I see often that their questions are about when and where classes will be held, what students need to bring, and other procedures.

My FAQ were chosen carefully. I did not want to answer every question under the sun nor did I want to have answers so long that they wouldn't be read. If you're looking for some examples, feel free to check mine out:
  • What does the Bible say about confirmation?
  • What is the history of confirmation?
  • What is the purpose of confirmation?
  • ​Why did Luther write the Small Catechism?
  • ​Should parents be teaching confirmation in the home? ​
  • What is the role of parents in the teaching of the faith to their children?
  • How can parents support their kids through confirmation?
  • How can parents support their pastor through confirmation?
  • Is confirmation a requirement for being a member at St. John Lutheran Church?
  • What is taught in confirmation?
  • Why do we have to memorize so much?
  • ​Why do we have to do sermon notes?
  • Is confirmation the end of one's religious education?
  • Is confirmation still meaningful in the 21st century?
To see the answers go to the St. John Lutheran Church, Sterling, NE website. Remember that learning the Word and the 6 Chief Parts of Christian doctrine is the most important thing we all learn. 
The 10 Commandments show us how God created us to live in a relationship with him and each other. Without him we are without hope and a future. 
The Apostles' Creed describes who we are in a relationship with; briefly explaining the triune God and what he did and does for us. 
The Lord's Prayer is how we are invited to communicate with him and how he teaches us that he wants us to remain in communication with him. 
Baptism is how we are brought into relationship with him through water and the word. 
Confession maintains us in the relationship, continuously bringing us back to him for forgiveness through repentance and confession. 
The Lord's Supper is how he nourishes our relationship, strengthens our faith, and draws us closer to him.

Thursday, May 7, 2020

EDUCATION: The Storyteller Bible

Friends! This is it! For years I've been encouraging people to read the Bible as if it is the great story it is. It's so much easier to understand, especially for kids, when it's read with emotion and inflection. For some reason when we're sitting in church or reading in Sunday School we treat the greatest story ever told as if there aren't even real people with emotions involved in it, but there are!

Check out the Storyteller Bible. You can hear the difference and you'll want one for your family. You can listen together, talk about what you're hearing, write down questions for your pastor, but most of all, you'll hear the gospels as if the Apostles are telling them to you. This is a great resource!

If you use the link to go to the website, scroll down to the book of Jonah for a great sample. It's so amazing how the time flies when you're listening to the Bible in this way; and it's not a story. You're listening to the words of the Bible (Christian Standard Bible) read by Keith Ferrin.

I'm already working on ways that I can introduce this into my congregation! I'm also learning how to memorize books of the Bible through Keith Ferrin's process. I can't wait to get started!

Friday, April 17, 2020

WORSHIP: Using Open Broadcaster Software to Live Stream Worship

I don't know about your church, but with all these online worship services going on we were really scrambling to put something together that was easy to use and didn't take a lot of financial resources. We don't belong to a large congregation that has hired staff specifically for technology. I did some searching around and the Spirit sent me to OBS (Open Broadcaster Software). I figured out how to use it and taught my pastor husband and now he's able to create some really nice services. About a week ago he said, "You should really create a video to show others how to use this for worship." So... I did and here it is. It's on YouTube. Feel free to share it. 

If you'd like to see a sample worship service put together with this look at the Good Friday Service on the St. John Lutheran Church website. The earlier services (or sermons) were my husband on his phone, but with this we have great music, videos, some special music, and are adding readers. We can't wait to get back to corporate worship, but until then, we're trying to make online worship something they will look forward to. 


Tuesday, March 17, 2020

EDUCATION: When we know better, we do better.

So, you have some extra time in the next few weeks? Because we may not know what we don't know about teaching, why not take some of that time to educate ourelves and/or make some adjustments to our education plans?

The Feast of Victory -- A workbook for those who prepare 5th graders for their first communion. Parents and children go through the book together and meet with the pastor a couple of times before the big event. 

I Am Jesus' Little Lamb -- A keepsake and educational book for the newly baptized; includes a place for baptism photos. Parents, grandparents, godparents, or anybody can read this book as the child grows to remind them of the gifts God gives at baptism. 

The Art of Teaching Confirmation -- Learn what and how to apply the secrets middle school teachers use to effectively teach confirmation. What can you do to get them to discuss, listen, behave? How do you know if they "get" it? 

The Art of Teaching Sunday School -- From preschoolers to adults we can't teach everyone the same way. What is the most impactful way to teach preschoolers? How are middle schoolers different from high schoolers in how they learn? How do we have an adult Bible study that gets people talking? This book tells all.

Tuesday, March 10, 2020

CHILDREN: Culture-Appropriate Bibles for Children

I was speaking at a conference where some of the teachers asked me about finding resources that fit multicultural classes because they couldn't find anything from Lutheran publishers. Well, my friends, here is what I found for you. I couldn't see inside all of them to see if they were appropriately paraphrased, so if they're not, please use your best judgment about what story you read, but use the photos that help your students identify with them.

Getty Images
What would Jesus have looked like as a 1st century Palestinian Jew? Well, from what I've found, he was neither black nor white, and would not have visited a barber very often, but his hair would not have been very long (1 Corinthians 11:14) unless you took a vow where you promised not to cut your hair or drink wine. It is thought by some that 1st century Judeans would appear biologically similar to today's Iraqi Jews. He would have had black or dark brown hair, brown eyes, and olive-brown skin. He would have worn a knee-length tunic, as only the wealthy wore long tunics, and a wool mantle or cloak without color. Check out information from the well-researched book, What did Jesus really look like?

Culture-Appropriate Bibles
Nearly all of the book I found have very white people or white people with a tan in them.
The Jesus Storybook has wonderful pictures, but the text is advanced for young audiences. 

Culture - Appropriate Online Bible Pictures
Sometimes it's easier to look for individual pictures. There are also coloring pictures that are really easy to find if you do a google search. Those, of course, you can color the way you like.
Shutterstock has some great pictures, but it's not free. It might, however, be a good investment.
Free Bible Images has a lot of pictures, but you have to look for those that don't portray everyone as white. There are also maps which is great for kids in the Knowledge Stage (The Art of Teaching Sunday School).
The Glory Story has some pictures that seem to be close culturally and some are free and some you have to buy. Again, it might be worth the price.