Playing With Fire: Social Media and Communication

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We’re drawn to it, aren’t we? It’s warm, inviting, and peaceful. It casts a soft glow. We use it for toasting marshmallows and warming our toes after sledding. Fire can help us send signals for help and warning.  It refines and heats and draws us together.

And it’s dangerous. It can spread rapidly, causing destruction and injury and loss.

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It occurs to me that social media is rather like fire.

We can use it to warm others–and warn others. It can draw us together around a cause, or just for fun. It can connect us.

And, just like fire, it can be dangerous. It can spread rapidly, causing destruction and injury and loss.

Perhaps the most dangerous part is that we can say things online we might not say face-to-face. The internet gives us an imaginary sense of security. But just like tossing a match onto a pile of dry leaves, a fire can start quickly, causing scars that will never, ever heal. And sadly, no smoke detector will warn others, and even copious amounts of water won’t be able to drown the damage.

Today, I’m asking myself, “Will my words cast a warm glow, or will they be a weapon of mass destruction?”

After all, it only takes a spark to get a fire going…

What kind of fire am I building with my words?

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Solutions: Finding Devotional Materials for Teens with Special Needs

Please meet my friend and colleague, Kelly Norville.


Kelly serves as Special Needs Ministry Coordinator at Christ Community Chapel in Hudson, OH…and she does it with passion, energy, and exceptional care. (and a great sense of humor as well.) Every time I’m with Kelly, I learn something new and useful. If you are in Northeast Ohio, you MUST pay her a visit!

One of the things I love about ministry work is brainstorming with other ministry leaders. When we work together, we are almost certain to land on a solution that will meet the needs of our students and their families. SO, when Kelly emailed last week, I was thrilled to brainstorm a solution with her!

The situation: Kelly was doing some planning for students in her program, and wanted to find some devotional materials for teen girls with special needs.

The solution: We brainstormed some possibilities that would fit the interests and needs of the kids with whom she is ministering. Below are some of our favorites:

soulsurferSoul Surfer by Bethany Hamilton. This might be appealing because it is written by Bethany Hamilton…a real person who is not much older than some of the kids in the program. They could also watch the movie, “Soul Surfer,” which could aid in  comprehension and provide context. (book from Joni and Friends, $15)

parables10 Minute Parables  These are short lessons, which may be helpful teens who have difficulty sustaining attention. Some students will need a clear, concise explanation of how parables are a simple way to understand complicated topics. This series is designed specifically for teens, so those who have difficulty with comprehension, or who are functioning on a more concrete level will benefit from pre-teaching and reviewing. (Group Publishing, $6.99)

10 Minute Moments: The Basics  This is another Group resource…I like that it works through the book of John, because that is such a foundational book. In addition, when material is presented as solid, basic, truth, (as in this resource) it makes understanding intangible concepts (like faith!) much easier for kids with autism.

ChurchEditionVolume1_largeWhat’s In the Bible Series. Bear with me here…I know this series seems like it’s very elementary-friendly…it IS designed for kids. HOWEVER…the humor and language move quickly, so it absolutely appeals to older kids (and adults, too.) Proof: I had “kids “in my family room ranging in age from 5 – 22 who were all watching this last Christmas…and LOVING it.) This series is designed by Veggie Tales creator, Phil Vischer. There are companion downloads, coloring pages, and music, in addition to a full curriculum. (my friend and colleague, Amy Dolan served on the curriculum team!) This would be a fabulous resource for students who need repetition, respond well to music, and also for those for whom video is a preferred method of learning. Finally, this is one of my favorite resources in terms of helping kids understand God’s story as a whole, not just as isolated stories.
(Jelly Fish Labs, DVDs start at $14.99; Curriculum starts at $79.00; also available; music, digital downloads, web resources and more!)

The 13 Most Important Bible Lessons for Teenagers. I like this for the same reasons that I like the What’s in the Bible series…it’s good meat-and-potatoes, presented as FACT. In addition, Group’s lessons include drama and hands-on materials designed to make the lessons relevant to each learner’s needs. (Group Publishing, $21.99)

BelieveitornotBelieve it or Not Bible Studies. This is one of those out-of-the-box type of studies that captures some kids who have a fascination with the interesting and obscure. Definitely a different way to go (and I can think of a few teen boys who would really get into this…a whole chapter on Jesus’ spit? Cool!)
 Group Publishing, $16.99

GodOurFatherGod Our Father  Friendship Ministries is always a good, solid resource. This publisher breaks down information into very manageable portions. Many of the resources in this series are designed for folks with cognitive disabilities. If kids need really straightforward information, stated in simple terms, this would probably be helpful. Materials include music on CD, leaders’ guides, and take-home papers. Also in this series…Jesus Our Savior; Spirit Our Helper
Faith Alive Resources/Friendship Ministries, CD: $12.49; Leader’s packet: $85.99; Youth Take-Home Papers: $26.49

As with any solution…there’s no “one-size fits all…” Hopefully these resources will spark an idea that will meet the needs of the teens in your programs!

Do you have materials that have worked wonderfully with teens? Leave a message or tell me here .

Happy Monday!

What Can the Church Learn from the Glee Project?

It’s summertime…and that means a slightly slower pace, summer jobs, warm evenings and yes…summer television.

My daughter and I have greatly looked forward to “The Glee Project” since last summer. It’s sort of a cross between American Idol and The Apprentice; the contestants are high school and college students vying for a guest role in the upcoming season of “Glee.” The focus is largely on musicianship and teamwork, which makes it appealing. In addition, viewers get a glimpse into the personal triumphs and struggles of each contestant. The show has provided a springboard into some interesting conversations for our family. And, beyond that, the music is terrific, and it’s been fun summer viewing. (Please note: This show contains LOTS of mature subjects…Parental Guidance is strongly suggested!!)

One of the contestants this summer is Mario. According to his bio on The Glee Project Website, Mario performs with choirs, enjoys acting and dancing and even writes music.  In addition, he plays guitar, piano and drums. The bio also states that Mario “was born with Morning Glory Syndrome, which caused him to go blind at the age of nine.”

Throughout the Glee Project competition, the director, choreographer and vocal coach have made accommodations for Mario so that he could learn his part for each song and music video. The other contestants assisted him as well. However, Mario was treated as a valued member of the  team. When he did well, he was praised. When he made errors, he was corrected. And, when he needed an attitude adjustment, his castmates and directors gave him direct feedback.

Two weeks ago, Mario was eliminated by the judges. As he made his exit, he said,

When people watch this competition, I hope that they see a talented, fearless, inspirational young man that happens to be blind and NOT a blind person that they let on the Glee Project.

 I’m so much more than that.
Blindness is the last thing on my list.

My heart beat faster as I heard him say this. “What if he were talking to the Church?” I thought.  “What if we could always see abilities and possibilities first? What if disabilities were the LAST thing we noticed?”

In my line of work, I’m trained to look for needs, and to be keenly aware of areas of weakness so that I can respond with solutions. Mario reminded me that I need to be sure my “default setting” is on strength-finding…because EVERYONE has gifts, and the Church is incomplete without the gifts of ALL.

At the end of each episode of The Glee Project, the departing contestant sings a verse of Avril Lavinge’s “Keep Holding On:”

You’re not alone
Together we stand
I’ll be by your side, you know I’ll take your hand
When it gets cold
And it feels like the end
There’s no place to go
You know I won’t give in
No I won’t give in

There’s nothing you could say
Nothing you could do
There’s no other way when it comes to the truth
So keep holding on
‘Cause you know we’ll make it through, we’ll make it through…

When I first heard this song, I thought “What a pretty love song.” Now, it sings like a Psalm, hinting at heaven.

Keep holding on~