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It could be shoddy workmanship or a graphic designer hopped up on Red Bull and no sleep.  However, in the last month three retailers have come under attack for their “photoshop fails.” Target took a  giant chunk out of a bathing suit’s backside. The Limited took so much “meat” off of the arms on a shirt model that her elbows appear broken. Old Navy created “thigh gap” in plus-sized jeans.  (You can read a great article summing it up Here)

In early February American Eagle Outfitter’s lingerie company “Aerie” announced they would not be photo-shopping or air-brushing models in many of their campaigns. They wanted to represent “real” bra sizes, shapes and sizes. (I am not posting pictures of young girls in panties and bikinis to show you, sorry.) On the one hand I am excited that the young women appear to actually have texture to their skin, on the other they are still ridiculously tanned, toned, and thin.

Yesterday a friend of mine posted an article on what “actresses look like without being touched up.”  Who knows if any of the pictures were real, but they sure did look like the famous. It was actually nice to see that indeed it is true: None of us look anything less than dazed and crazy when we stumble out of a swim in the ocean.

Mash these together and sprinkle in the attempt to teach our young people about modesty and body image, and it still feels like a mess. I think we have forgotten that real people look real…and what on earth that could even mean?

Here’s what we forget: We were created naked. In our nakedness there was no shame. Why?  There was innocence, and we understood we were created in the image of God. We make a really poor decision that we need to learn the difference between good and evil. In the moment innocence is lost,  what do we do before anything else? We cover ourselves. We put on clothes. We forget who we look like. Male and female, we are a reflection of the Living Lord. Before we hide from His presence,  we cover our skin. That is the day looking like God became less important than presenting our bodies to each other.

Try this exercise with your small group this week:

Ask them each to take a selfie without thinking. They are only allowed to take one.  Notice that they will flip their hair or position their head to take it an angle they think they will like. Have them look at the picture. What do they like about it?  What do they hate?  Do they want to retake it?  Would they post it or make you promise it will never see the light of day? Ask them if they took the picture in a certain way so they would like it?

We want to use these media examples to show our students what we are comparing our selves to. However, the reality is they will look at that selfie and compare it to the world, not to the image of God. We all do it. We are still attempting to cover ourselves with fig leaves, as they say.

So as you talk to your students about modesty and body image, remember this: Real people are created in the image of our Risen Savior- not on a computer screen. We are not objects to be seen, but a house for the Holy Spirit. I am not so sure that God sees our freckles and crooked teeth, and dimples and fluffy eyebrows as a bad thing. He isn’t sitting around saying,  ”I wish I made that guy over there with a smaller nose.”  He’s laughing and saying, “That girl has my smile.”

Instead, teach them to take a look around. If we all carry the Lord’s DNA and not one of us looks alike, can you even fathom what God looks like???

Happy Friday :)

Leneita

 

Be Careful How You Teach

Leneita Fix —  March 20, 2014 — 1 Comment

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Today I was looking through some really excellent small group curriculum. I loved the way it dug into lead students in going deeper with their relationship with Christ.  However, it also held one of my biggest pet peeves when it comes to pre-written curriculum:

It was really written for an adult, not a student.

The subject matter is excellent. However, the way it is written asks questions in a way that an adult who is a fully devoted follower of Christ would understand. Since this has annoyed me for years, I went through a period of time where I wrote my own stuff. In my pride, I went and looked if my stuff was any better. Truth is I did the same thing.

We think adding in engagement, activities and perhaps a video or two solves the  problem of drawing in teens. This isn’t it either. If you merely hand off any curriculum to your team they think the point is to get from the beginning to the end of the lesson. Therefore, they stop ask these “grown-up” questions, get blank stares they think is boredom, and move on.

If there are unchurched students in your group, these concepts are totally foreign to them. When students have grown up in the church they have been “told” but often are not “taught.” Just because they have heard about concepts doesn’t mean anyone has stopped and asked,  ”Do you know what any of it means?”

Recently, I was probing my own three Middle School age kids as to what Grace really is. The idea that it is Christ’s “free gift” that we “don’t deserve” and what that means eluded them. These are three kids who have grown up in Christian school, in youth group, in church, in Christian programming, with two believing parents who talk to them, and still they couldn’t explain this simple concept.

I don’t think the answer is writing our own stuff, or adding any more hands on games. The answer is in the way we teach, and teaching our teachers to teach. Connecting students to the truth is NOT intuitive for everyone. Knowing how to strategically pull apart a lesson and get to the heart of the issue does not make sense to all of us. We don’t always know how to keep bringing it all back to Jesus. It’s not about the lesson at all, it’s about asking, “How will this deepen their relationship with the Lord?”

So STOP!

As you go through your curriculum and look at questions, think before you ask, and spend the time training your team to do the same.

Look at the lesson:

If you think about it, can you easily understand and articulate every concept in front of you?

Chances are if you have to think more than a moment or are pondering, “I know I just am not sure how to say it,” the teens in your group have no clue at all. They need you to let them ask more questions- about the questions.

Could someone who doesn’t speak your language understand all of the words?

A Dutch friend of mine pointed this idea out.  If you were trying to teach this lesson to a person who had just entered the country,  how would you break it down? You would use easy concepts and small words.  Do the same with your teens.

Are you stopping along the way?

Don’t go from start to finish of the curriculum just to get through. Go through it line by line. Make absolutely zero assumptions that they ALL get it. Our unchurched students are sometimes vulnerable enough to say, “I don’t know.”  Many times though they think everyone else knows when they don’t. Our “churched” kids think they are supposed to know this stuff.  They aren’t going to stop you and say,  ”So listen I’ve heard about this Armor of God thing a lot. As a matter of fact, when I was little I even owned the play set from the Christian book store. I think I understand that armor is protective, but can you give me a clue as to why wearing my salvation like a hat really is helpful, and you know what Salvation is also explained as something I only have to do once, so really I am not getting this. While we’re at it can we talk about how we wear shoes of peace or what righteousness has to do with living my life today?  Did I mention I have no clue what righteousness really is and how on earth to wear it like a breastplate, I mean practically speaking. Can you tell me how this has anything to do with following Jesus?”  The discussion question read, “How can your “helmet of Salvation” protect your thoughts?”  Line by line ask them,  ”DO YOU GET THIS?” and “DOES THIS MAKE SENSE?”

Personally I think maybe teens should be writing curriculum for other teens. Therefore, we are left with the adults trying to think like an adolescent. Maybe instead we need to ask, “If I’m honest, do I know what walking with Jesus means at all?”

How are you teaching your students?

Would love to hear your thoughts,

Leneita / @leneitafix



How to Create A Sermon

Tony Myles —  November 25, 2013 — 2 Comments

sermonA pastor was working on his weekly sermon one day while his son watched.

“Dad,” the boy asked, “how do you know what to say every week?”

“God tells me,” he answered, writing some more thoughts on his sketch pad.

The boy watched for a few minutes more and asked, “Are you sure it’s God?”

“Absolutely,” the dad replied.

Finally, the boy asked what he’d been wondering the whole time. “Then why do you keep crossing things out?”

I’m curious… how do you go about creating your messages?

I approach my process differently every time, but I did write down some common things I tend to do. Here are the first five:

  • Write down the themes of the past sermons your congregation has heard over the past 6 to 12 months. List the strengths and weaknesses of each message to determine how the people received or rejected what was shared. Pray and seek discernment regarding how your congregation needs to most be challenged by your next sermon in order to grow spiritually.
  • Expose yourself to an assortment of books, magazine articles, videos and other media that offer a variety of perspectives on your potential sermon theme. Evaluate the materials for insights and illustrations, then use a word processor to type and save what you’ve identified as relevant to your sermon.
  • Search the Bible for stories and verses that speak to your sermon theme. Use resources like Biblegateway.com to type in keywords in a variety of translations, then save the most relevant results in your file.
  • Dialogue with trusted members of the congregation or church leadership about the direction of your sermon. Ask for their input and any stories from their lives that may complement what you will be preaching on. Interact with other people you regularly encounter in your week, asking what their thoughts and questions are on the theme you’re exploring.
  • Write down a list of any thoughts or questions you have from all of your research. Refer to this list as you read the Bible passages you’ve previously identified while looking for the specific texts that you are most drawn to for your sermon. Deepen your understanding of these passages through the commentaries, word studies, maps and historical background provided for on Blueletterbible.com. Pray that God will help you understand His truth before you share it with others.

There are a number of other things I do after that, including how I approach actually writing out my sermon. (You can read the rest of the article here.)

What does your process look like? What’s working for you, and what could you do differently?

Best Analogy?

Tony Myles —  November 20, 2013 — 6 Comments

How does it go again?

  • “The Trinity is kind of like…”
    • “Water. You can have it in three forms – ice, liquid or steam – yet it’s still water.”
    • “A pretzel: there are three components to it, yet it’s tied together by one continuous thread.”
    • “Hot cherry pie: you can cut it into three exact pieces, but as soon as you remove the knife it all oozes back into each other and is still one pie.”
  • “One way to understand the Bible is to think of it like…”
    • “Star Wars: Start reading the New Testament like you should watch the first three movies that came out… what is known as Episodes 4-6 now. And then circle back and read the Old Testament, like watching Episodes 1-3 to understand the back story.”
    • “Getting to know someone by watching old YouTube videos on someone’s account. In this case, that person is God. The Bible is full of so many stories of who He interacted with.”
    • “A jigsaw puzzle. If you stare at one piece, you may get a sense of a piece of the puzzle. You really can’t see the whole picture until everything comes together.”
  • “Your role in the Kingdom of God is just like…”
    • “A football team. God is the coach, and He put different special teams coaches on the field to help you out. You’re on the team. Suit up and make a play.”
    • “An orchestra. Without your instrument, the song is missing something. You can’t just play random notes, though. There is a song that you get to complement in however you’re wired to do it.”
    • “The guy on the corner advertising pizza. Your life is like spinning the sign around to get the attention of random people. You ultimately want them to taste and see that the Lord is good.”

You probably have a handful of analogies you return back to. It’s what Jesus did when he spoke about the Kingdom of God using farming and wedding analogies.

Do you have any that you don’t mind sharing?



The Thread Of Your Message

Chuck Bomar —  November 8, 2013 — 3 Comments

Screen shot 2013-11-07 at 1.35.00 PMWhen I teach at Colossae, I use something I call a “Thread.”

The thread is the main point of the passage we are teaching, boiled down into a phrase or a very short sentence. On a fantastic week, if we’re honest about it, people will (maybe) embrace 1 thing they heard us say in our message. So, my thought is…why not make the entire message about the one thing you want them to walk away with?

That’s where the “thread” comes in. I really wrestle with the wording with our staff.  It can take up to an hour sometimes. But it’s really important to make sure we are clearly articulating the biblical authors’ point.  We want to word the writers point in a fresh, boiled down and consumable way – but certainly in an accurate way.

Then, as I prepare my notes, I make sure everything I say somehow points people toward understanding and embracing the thread.

  • If I share information about the historical background of the passage, I want to only share that info that would help people wrap their minds around the thread.
  • If I want to unpack the meaning of a specific word or grammar of a sentence, I want to only unpack the that which will be beneficial for people to to better understand the thread.

There is a phrase that people sometimes use that goes something like this: If you can’t say it in a sentence, you can’t say it in 30 minutes.

I believe that. It keeps the message simple, but not shallow. It keeps the message clear, but you can dive into the depth of it.

Do you use a “thread” or something that helps you keep your messages clear and on point?

Tell me your thoughts!

Chuck

@chuckbomar

YouTube Life Skills

Leneita Fix —  October 21, 2013 — 1 Comment

Yesterday I received an email from YouTube that intrigued me.  The subject line read:

Learn 12 New Life Skills On YouTube

Perhaps you got it too? Opening it I found this:

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Notice that YouTube “life skills” include slight of hand, solving a rubix cube, rolling a coin across your knuckles, and of course, beat boxing.

I’m not sure what I expected out of YouTube for their version of “life skills.”  While fun “skills” to learn, they are hardly what will truly help anyone in their everyday life. This got me thinking. If I were to make 4 videos teaching something to help a 12-25 year old about navigating life what would they be?

1.  Fail Well:

We mess up. There are even times we totally make the wrong choice. The issue is less about what goes wrong, and more about what we will do to make it right. Will we learn to repent when needed? Will we learn how to improve for the “next time,” we are in a situation? Will we own our mistakes and not get stuck there?

2.  Conflict Is Good/Fighting Is Bad

Learning to confront a difficult situation or disagree with someone respectfully is something many adults don’t know how to do well. In adolescence lives can be all about the “drama.”  Teaching students how to stand up for what they believe in and express opinions for the better good is important.

3. Integrity Above All

Integrity is not merely about learning honesty or even truth.  It’s about putting truth at the forefront of everything- not our interpretation or opinion of- but following through on what is right honestly- no matter what. This needs to be taught and learned by many.

 4. Compassion Moves Us To Action

Our relationship with Christ doesn’t stop with “Jesus Loves Me.”  It is about walking out a journey with Him where He goes, and loving our neighbor as ourselves in the process.  What will we do when we see someone hurting? Will we notice the hurting in the first place?

I would love to solve a Rubix cube without pulling all the stickers off, and I do have a secret dream to be a quality beat boxer, but I hardly call it a “life skill.”

What life skills do you need to teach your students?



Godspeaks - narrativeJust got done teaching a series at Colossae that I called, “God Speaks.”  It was a way of teaching through the different literary genres of the Old Testament.  The point was to show what God is uniquely saying to us through the various genres.  I taught this series for a few reasons:

 

(1) I wanted to entice people to read scripture more, particularly the Old Testament.

(2) It’s a subversive way of teaching hermeneutics (bible study methods).

We all know that God speaks to us through the scriptures, but we often lose sight of the fact that He speaks to us in different ways through the scriptures.  He’s telling the same story, but we learn different things about Him and ourselves through the various literary genres.  So, we went through the following messages:

  1. God Speaks, Through Narrative.  God chooses specific historical events to reveal who He is and who we are in light of Him.  I taught through Genesis 1-6 in this message.
  2. God Speaks, Through Law.  We learn about our complete inability to be perfect and thus it leads us to a full recognition of our moral failure in God’s eyes.  We taught through Leviticus 16.
  3. God Speaks, Through Poetry.  We learn ways we can worship God regardless of our emotional state – no matter how high or low we get.  I taught through Psalm 77 for this message.
  4. God Speaks, Through Prophecy.  We see how God is inviting His people into the blessing of depending on Him.  I taught through Joel 2 and Jeremiah 7.
  5. God Speaks, Through Wisdom.  This is where God reveals the hindsight of others so it can become our foresight.  I taught through an overview of Ecclesiastes.

What are ways you’ve tried to entice people to read scripture?

Screen shot 2013-09-26 at 9.49.35 AMTeaching people about Jesus through the scriptures is one of my favorite things to do.  But over the years I’ve discovered bad habits that I had to overcome.  If you teach at all, I’d guess that you struggle with things like this too.  So, I thought it might be helpful to list a few things we tend to do that I believe to be outside of our “job description” as teachers.

As a teacher your job is not to…

  1. Give a book report.  Many times when we are preparing a message we will read books and commentaries.  We then begin working out a flow of thought by organizing all the information we obtained.  And, if we’re not careful we end up giving little more than a book report to those we are teaching. We must remember that this is not our job.  Studying what God has revealed to other people about about a passage or topic can be good to do in many regards, but I would suggest that great caution should be taken to make sure that our study does not hinder us from prayerfully considering what God wants us to say, personally.  For me, I had to stop beginning my preparation by reading other sources.  Instead, I now begin with prayer and personally walking through the bible study methods I teach others…and then look at resources to support or confront the things I’ve learned from my personal study.
  2. Conform behavior.  If our messages are not applicable to the lives of those we teach we are wasting our time.  But, if we’re not careful our desire to be practical can easily cause us to simply teach proper behavior.  There is a fine line here to watch carefully.  I’d suggest our job isn’t to get people to do things, but rather to help them understand, love and enjoy Jesus.