I recently stumbled upon a fast and free way to make Scripture slides for Children’s Ministry (or any other ministry, for that matter) with an array of free and attractive backgrounds.
And it may already be in your phone/device.
It’s built into one of the popular apps out there – the free YouVersion app of the Bible (they’re not paying me to post this, btw 🙂 I just really like this feature and want to share about it).
I was using the app recently and saw a button I had never seen before. So I clicked on it. What I found was amazing. It was an option to make an image of any selected Bible verse over any background of your choice (your own or from their library). The settings make it easy to change the font, the font size, the colors, etc. Below are some steps and pics to show you how to do it.
- First, download the app. Search “youversion” on your app store.
- Once you familiarize yourself with how to find a certain verse (which is intuitive), select a verse by tapping it. It will underline the verse with a dotted line and then give you a selection of options on the right.
- Then tap on the orange button (of a photograph), which will lead you through the step-by-step editing process.
- Once you have your slide, share it as you like! See the images below for a more detailed look at how it works.
Then you can share the image by email, message, or social media. You can also save the image to your device and hence drop it into any slide show you are making (such as Keynote or ProPresenter).
I love to use it to share a quick verse on social media or as a slide when I’m speaking or teaching about the Bible. It’s super easy to use and best of all, it’s free!
Bonus: Many of the most popular Bible verses (John 3:16, for example) have special pre-made images with artsy fonts and backgrounds. Those are fun to discover and you just have to stumble upon them when you go to those verses and then go to this “edit image” process.
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Here are some slides I’ve made since I found out about this……
I am somewhat of a bibliophile (one who loves books). And more particularly, I love to learn about and study the book of all books – the Bible. I guess that would be a more accurate use of the term “Biblio”-phile.
So it is with excitement and anticipation that I share with you a new curriculum from Phil Vischer, the creator of the well known Veggie Tales series (in fact, Phil is the famous scrappy voice of Bob the Tomato). This new curriculum, designed for use in Sunday School or other weekly church gatherings with elementary-aged kids, is called Buck Denver Asks…What’s in the Bible?
Here is the brief summary straight from the curriculum website:
“Buck Denver Asks … What’s in the Bible? is the 13-DVD series from VeggieTales® creator Phil Vischer. In his first new project since VeggieTales, Vischer has set out to teach kids (and parents!) the story of the Bible – God’s great rescue plan! We know the stories of Moses, Noah, David, and Jesus, but in this groundbreaking new Bible DVD series, we learn how they all fit together to tell one big, redemptive story. Vischer’s signature wit shines through with his all-new cast of characters, fast-paced flash animation, and catchy tunes. This is one journey through the Bible you won’t want to miss!”
I took a look at the info and some samples of the curriculum and I am impressed overall. I would certainly recommend it (and if you keep reading, you will see some special discounts on the curriculum that I can offer my readers).
Here are the things I like about What’s in the Bible?….
- A scope and sequence guided by the overarching narrative of the Bible, rather than topics. I know a lot of curriculum out there follows a general chronological order of the Bible, but this one aims to cover the entire Bible while constantly keeping in mind the overall cohesion and interconnectedness of the Bible. And it uses the entire story of the Bible as the driving force of content rather than just teaching topics illustrated by a few popular Bible stories.
- Use of a variety of learning methods. This curriculum is self-described as being “media-driven,” but that doesn’t mean “media-only.” There are plenty of interactive activities in small groups. There are hands-on activities as well as more cognitive activities (such as review through trivia questions). I like curriculum that keeps moving and draws on a variety of teaching methods and learning styles. I like how the videos use both puppets and Phil teaching (as himself). The puppets help the kids stay engaged (while teaching about the Bible) and Phil’s teaching brings a very real and pastoral aspect to the content. He is both deep and understandable at the same time. I like the combination of all those elements.
- The commitment to Scripture. This might sound obvious, but it is important that a curriculum have a strong Biblical grounding in terms of how the writers view Scripture. Phil Vischer has a strong commitment to Scriptural inspiration, authority, reliability, and relevance. To him, the Bible is not just the world’s best selling book that teaches us about the religion of Christianity and how people wrote about it centuries ago. For Phil, the Bible is God’s inspired Word – a revelation from God to us as His message of love and story of redemption. And that changes everything.
- It’s all right there. You basically have a curriculum in a box. From what I reviewed, it did not appear that the teachers (who are usually volunteers) need to bring much of anything with them except the videos and other handouts/materials provided by the curriculum itself. Any way to cut down on unnecessary clutter is helpful.
Here are the things I think can be improved….(which is not much, by the way)
- There is a puppet named Michael who rides in the back of a car on the way to grandma’s house. I’ve seen him before in other Buck Denver videos. Maybe it is my personal preference, but his voice is hard for me to understand. It is very high-pitched and sounds extremely unnatural for whoever is providing the voice for him. I think it is important to have clear and legible communication if you want to convey such quality content.
- Some of the puppets have no eyes (or, at least you can’t see the eyes due to over-furrowed brows or hats). I think the eyes bring life to a puppet (or any other creature for that matter). Again, it might be my personal preference, but I feel like I receive communication better when I can see some eyes in the puppet, person, or creature. Would you like a pastor to preach a sermon to you with a hat down over their eyes the whole time?
- There is an extra DVD for a Christmas series (yay!). But it would also be nice to have a special DVD series for Lent (the weeks leading up to Easter). They cover the Gospel stories and the death and resurrection of Christ, but I think it would be nice to have a dedicated series that follows the weeks of Lent.
There is not much to criticize here, because Phil and his team have worked very hard to put out a great product that will help lots of churches communicate the truth of the Bible in a largely Biblically illiterate culture (and becoming more and more so, unfortunately). Many of us are familiar with the success of Veggie Tales and the way it has become “salt and light” by teaching Biblical truths in ways that are not preachy and are palatable to the masses – both Christian and secular. My hope is that this “What’s in the Bible” project will similarly penetrate into our culture and society in a way that can instruct young people about the most popular (and I believe) most important book in history.
So, here’s the discount I promised you (as well as a free sample):
Paul tells us to think about things that are right (Phil 4:8). What is right?
There is right and there is wrong. As Christians, we believe in a divine Creator who is also the moral standard for the universe. Without a moral standard, how can we know right and wrong in the first place? Does a right and wrong exist at all? Humanists will argue that there can be moral standards without God, but unfortunately, there are as many opinions on that as there are humanists. Which one do you listen to? Granted, Christians have divided and disagreed over the centuries about how to interpret God’s moral standards. But at least we all agree that there is one imparted to us from outside this finite universe in the first place.
To think about things that are right is to think about God’s moral standards as opposed to our own selfish desires. Thinking about things that are right means chewing on truth, pondering justice, and seeking to do the right thing as opposed to the wrong thing when faced with a decision. How do we know what is right? By studying God’s Word, by staying close to His heart, by fellowshipping in the body of Christ, by listening to the voice of the Holy Spirit, and testing our conclusions among “the counsel of many” (wherein plans succeed – Proverbs 15:22).
Yesterday, I saw the IMAX film Jerusalem at the Fernbank Museum in Atlanta. Put out by National Geographic Entertainment, it shows both the bloody history as well as the beautiful peoples and cultures who live there today.
I spent a semester living in the Old City of Jerusalem when I was in college for a study abroad program. I also got to re-visit Israel with my family last May for a few weeks. So this was a film that I was greatly anticipating ever since I heard it was coming out.
The film is a mere 42 minutes long, but it is fully packed with stunning fly-over shots, three-dimensionally moving panoramas, and everyday-life Old City action that really does make you feel like you’re shopping for fresh pita bread just inside of Damascus Gate. The soundtrack is driven by a recurring orchestral riff akin to tracks found in epic action movies (think Daft Punk’s Tron soundtrack). The only sense it was missing was smell (think a mixture of Old City garbage, ferrel cats, incense, and baklava), but I guess IMAX technology hasn’t reached that level of development yet.
I have to admit, there were a few moments when I wanted to shout out loud “Oh Yeah!” when I saw these beautiful arial views of Jerusalem from various angles. But I kept my thoughts to myself out of respect for the other movie patrons. My eyes raced around the wraparound screen to find the spots where I lived, studied, and visited multiple times. It was a real thrill, and I will come back to see it again (and bring others with me).
It opens with a brief overview of the history of Jerusalem (starting with a nice 19th Century David Roberts painting of the city). The narrator explains why the city has been the centerfold of history, religion, and humanity – brutally fought over more so than any other piece of real estate on the planet. The reasons, of course, include being positioned at the crossroads of the world’s major continents, the elevated bedrock which served as a high holy place for worshippers, and the water coming from the Gihon Spring.
Then we learn about the three major monotheistic religions that call Jerusalem home: Judaism, Christianity, and Islam (in that chronological order). Each is given equal attention and the unique culture of each is shown in a positive light. Three young women, each one raised in their respective faith community in Jerusalem, tell the story of their faith from their perspective. The film then displays how these women’s lives (and also their entire communities) live so close yet connect so little. The movie closes with the three ladies, well, I won’t spoil it for you. You have to go see it yourself!
I love Jerusalem the city. The main reason is because it holds so much meaning in the story of my faith as a Christian. But I also love it for the architecture, archaeology, the various people groups, the cultures, the politics, the inescapable intense global issues, and the gorgeous scenery (might I say heavenly?).
Please don’t think that I love dark and dismal things like plagues. They really are pretty negative. Biblically speaking, they were real judgements carried out on lots of people, ultimately leading to death for many.
Thankfully, we are separated by centuries from these ten plagues described in the book of Exodus. That is enough separation of time for me to feel free to use some creative object lessons to help kids remember the story and ultimately – the main point (which has to do with Jesus Christ).
So we had a little fun in re-telling the story. Here’s what I did with each of the plagues to help the kids learn and remember them:
- Blood (the Nile turned to blood): I lined the kids up behind a trash can. They each came up with a popsicle stick and a small cup of water. They then dipped the stick (representing Aaron’s staff) into a bottle of red food coloring and transferred the stick to the water. And whahlah: the water turns to blood. We did it right over the trash can so they could throw it all away immediately since red food coloring tends to make some serious stains (like blood 🙂
- Frogs – I juggled some stuffed frogs and then threw them at the kids. If you don’t know how to juggle, that’s fine. You can just toss stuffed animal frogs at them!
- Gnats – I sprinkled pepper on a child’s arm.
- Flies – I brought out my fly swatter and pretended to swat all the flies around me.
- Livestock – I juggled some stuffed animals (cow, sheep, horse) and then threw them at the kids. Feel free to skip the juggling part again.
- Boils – I put dozens of stickers all over the skin of a volunteer kid (face, arms, neck, etc.).
- Hail – I threw marshmallows at the kids: first small ones, then jumbo ones; this was by far their favorite plague.
- Locusts – no object lesson here, I just told the story (I guess I needed an object lesson break 🙂
- Darkness – I gave all the kids blindfolds and they blindfolded themselves; then I gave them simple commands like waving their hands in front of their faces; from that we discussed how difficult life can be when you can’t see anything (and pitch darkness over a whole city can cause a great deal of havoc).
- Firstborn/Passover – I painted some red paint on a piece of wood and spoke about the angel of darkness passing over the homes of the people with the lamb’s blood over their doorstep; I also had all the kids lay down and pretend like they were sleeping – then we pretended it was morning and all the first-born children had to stay down while the others could wake up; it was a good visual of how some kids made it and others did not; I also gave them some unleavened bread to eat.
This then led to the most important part of all – the fact that Jesus is the Lamb of God. And his blood was shed so that we can be set free (as Moses and the Israelites were set free after the Passover). I explained to the kids that I do not think it was a coincidence that Jesus died on the cross at the end of Passover week the year he died. That was the week that Jewish people celebrated the exodus into the wilderness and the angel “passing over” any homes with the lamb’s blood. So also should we have the lamb’s blood (i.e. a relationship with Jesus Christ) and that is the only way we believe we can be free from the judgement of God due to sin.
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My wife and I celebrated our 10 years of marriage this past May by visiting Israel and the West Bank. It was a two and a half week trip and we have a daughter who is two. We decided that we did not want to be away from her for that long of a trip, so we brought her along.
We’re so glad we did, because visiting Israel with a toddler is an adventure that is memorable and well worth it. There are some unique challenges, but we would do it all over again in a heartbeat.
First of all, this was a self-made trip/tour. We did not go with a large tour group. We bought our tickets from IAD to TLV, stayed the first week in Jerusalem and the rest of the trip driving around the country in a rental car.
So here are some tips/things we learned about traveling half-way across the world with a toddler (some of these are specific to Israel sites and others are general travel-with-a-toddler things):
1. In-flight movies are your best friend on long-haul flights. We try not to let our toddler watch too much media (we don’t even own a television). But those little monitors on the transatlantic flights are a dream. Our daughter watched Lady and the Tramp three times in a row.
The flight attendants also gave her a little bag of toys and crayons. Of course, we also brought toys and books, but the movies were the real winner. It kept us sane and prevented an already uncomfortable situation from turning chaotic.
2. Bring a stroller AND an ergo carrier/sling/wrap. That’s what we did – and it worked. We also have a frame hiker backpack, but that is a little bulky, so we left that at home in the States. The Ergo carrier did the same trick (our daughter is on the lighter weight of her age) and was a lot easier to travel with. That way, when we went out for the day on foot (often in Jerusalem), we had the choice of using the carrier when the terrain was bumpy (as it is in the Old City and around the valleys) and the stroller when we walked around the New City. We just planned out our days so that we left the stroller in our room when we knew we were going to do mostly Old City and archaeological sites for the day.
3. The financial cost of bringing along a toddler is next to nothing (after paying for the plane ticket, of course). She was over two, so we paid for her plane ticket. But after that, she cost us about zero dollars or shekels. She was free at all museums, tourist sites, public transport, and even most restaurants (because the food comes out Mediterranean style – lots of generous plates for the table to share). She was also no extra charge at all of our lodging situations (which were convents, guest houses, and a bed and breakfast).
4. Speaking of lodging, we stayed at five different places over the course of the trip (Ecce Homo Convent in Jerusalem, The Bridgittine Sisters in East Jerusalem, The Masada Guest House at Masada, The Quiet Place B&B in Tiberias, and Stella Maris in Haifa). All five had something comfortable for our daughter, whether a folding crib or a spare mattress that we could lay on the floor – all for no extra cost. We simply checked ahead of time and made sure they had the crib or mattress available.
5. In terms of safety and security, we had no problems. Like any large city around the world, you need to keep an aware head on your shoulders after dark, but we weren’t out after dark with our daughter much anyway. We felt extremely safe the entire time we were in Israel AND the West Bank. The vast majority of people on both sides of that 1967-border are very friendly and look out for guests and visitors. It helps if you smile and don’t look scared all the time. Israel has some of the best defense and security systems in the world. And though you wouldn’t think it, Israel’s murder rate is LESS THAN HALF that of the USA.
6. Our daughter also scored lots of bonus trinkets from friendly shopkeepers or restauranteurs. Locals loved meeting her and interacting with her (more so than in the USA). That made us feel very welcome and comfortable in the country.
7. One of the most meaningful aspects of bringing her along was watching her take in the entire experience. I don’t think this will escape her memory as she grows older. We have pictures and videos, and she even talks about things she did in Israel (3 months later). Some friends of ours gave us some kids books about Israel as a welcome home gift. She loves reading those and recalling her trips to Masada, The Dead Sea, The Sea of Galilee, Haifa, and Jerusalem.
8. We did go through Hezekiah’s tunnel with her (in the Ergo carrier). It was a little nerve-racking at first (the water came up to my waist at one point and the walls of the tunnel are VERY narrow – not to mention pitch darkness). But we finally got her a working flashlight and that calmed everyone down. We used the flashlights on our phones since we didn’t bring our own battery flashlights. It was an adventure, but if I did it again, I’d probably pass on the toddler-on-your-belly-through-Hezekiah’s-tunnel thing.
9. We also hiked the snake path to the top of Masasda at 4:30 in the morning with our daughter on my back in the Ergo. That was a wonderful experience – especially when I was passing other hikers and they made comments to me like, “show off….” What I do regret is taking the snake path back down after 2 hours on top of Masada. We should have just splurged and rode the cable car down. Either way, there is a huge complimentary brunch waiting for you at the Masada Guest House if you stayed there the night before.
10. Naps. So we were bad parents and didn’t always lay her down for a nap every afternoon. Hey, we were on the other side of the world and wanted to make the most of our time. Of course we were attune to her needs and made sure she was happy and healthy. But on our last full day in Haifa (towards the end of the trip), we laid her down for a nap in the convent around 2pm. We thought we could have a nice family outing that night after her nap. But that didn’t happen. Our daughter didn’t wake up until 8am the next day! That was her way of saying, “If you’re not going to give me a full daily nap on this trip, I’m just going to make up for it by sleeping for 18 straight hours!” She was bushed – and so were we. We just chilled in the room that evening and rested up before heading to a big day in Caesarea the next day.
11. Car seat. We rented from Eldan Car Rental, which was a great choice in my opinion (except returning the car to the Eldan lot at TLV was a little confusing due to some detour signage). We were able to add a car seat to the rental for some $30 extra, which was well worth not lugging a car seat with us halfway around the world.
12. Sun and Water. We brought plenty of water and water bottles with us everywhere. One of the shopkeepers in Jerusalem told us that a trick some people use with toddlers who don’t drink enough water is to mix in some juice or powder drink mixes. We indeed tried that and I think it helped her stay hydrated! As for the sun, we made sure she had sunblock and a head covering or a wrap for her body or the stroller when the sun was too much.
I hope this helps anyone out there considering taking a toddler to Israel. I say “do it!” We made lots of fun family memories and it was well worth every penny and every pound of weight on my back.
A crazy new word has entered my vocabulary this summer – MVOTW. It stands for “Memory Verse of the Week.” I have learned that elementary kids and preteens love weird words. They also love doing silly motions to spell out or act out something. So each week at camp this summer, I have taught the kids a MVOTW. It usually goes along with the camp theme or the Bible Study for the week. At Mt. Lebanon Camp in Dallas it was Psalm 127:1. At Highland Lakes Camp this past week it was Hebrews 12:1. I have the kids stand up and slowly move their hands to their head to form the letter “M” over their heads. While we do that we are slowly crescendoing into saying “MAAAAVOTWA!” Then the guys act like bodybuilders and the girls act like cheerleaders (and some kids just do either one if they feel like it).
Then we simply act out the memory verse using motions for each word. It is an easy and effective way to teach kids how to memorize God’s Word. I had kids come up to me this summer and do the memory verse from two summers ago. They had remembered it because they had silly motions to go along with it.
Often I get a chance to teach kids the “why” behind memory verses. It is not just a meaningless memory game. It is a chance to hide God’s Word in our hearts. And that comes in handy when we are tempted to sin (among other benefits of memorizing Scripture). I teach them about the story of Jesus being tempted by the devil (Matthew 4). Three times the devil tempted Jesus and three times Jesus responded to the temptations by saying “It is written…” He was quoting memory verses to the devil and eventually fended him off because each temptation was struck down with a passage from God’s Word. Jesus memorized Scripture (he probably did so as a boy growing up in the Jewish school system of his day). So I challenge the kids to memorize God’s Word so they can wield that “sword of the Spirit” when Satan tempts them.
“Qatza” is the transliterated Hebrew term for “fringe”. I’m reading through the book of Job right now and something struck me in Job’s discourse in chapter 26. This is quoted from the NIV, Job 26:7-14, bold lettering mine:
7 He spreads out the northern [skies] over empty space; he suspends the earth over nothing.
8 He wraps up the waters in his clouds, yet the clouds do not burst under their weight.
9 He covers the face of the full moon, spreading his clouds over it.
10 He marks out the horizon on the face of the waters for a boundary between light and darkness.
11 The pillars of the heavens quake, aghast at his rebuke.
12 By his power he churned up the sea; by his wisdom he cut Rahab to pieces.
13 By his breath the skies became fair; his hand pierced the gliding serpent.
14 And these are but the outer fringe of his works; how faint the whisper we hear of him! Who then can understand the thunder of his power?”
Wow. All the magnificent creation around us – that is just the “outer fringe” of the works of God. What we see is just a whisper of his power and glory.
I love this passage because it reminds us of the unfathomable mystery of God – much like the end of Romans 11 in the New Testament, where Paul discusses how “unsearchable” is the mind and judgement of God.
This gives me comfort that I don’t have to have all the answers about God. I don’t have to fully understand Him in order to confess my faith in Him. I don’t have to scientifically prove Him to believe in His grace and power. What I see is just the outer fringe of His fullness.
This morning, I experienced a “Wow” moment after reading a story in the Bible. Here I am, 27 years old, just graduated from seminary, the son of a pastor, currently serving in ministry – and I read a Bible story about which I was totally unfamiliar. I’m in Children’s Ministry, so I am used to teaching kids the stories of David v. Goliath, Abraham and Isaac, Jesus and his parables, etc. But I think kids could get into a story about a guy riding a donkey who gets mauled by a lion and then the lion just stands there over the dead body without doing anything to the donkey. The fate of this unnamed man was brought upon the Lord because he was a prophet who disobeyed the Word of the Lord. This story is found in 1 Kings 13. We have two prophets – one is called an “old prophet” and the other is called a “man of God.” The “man of God” from the Southern Kingdom hears the Word of the Lord to go across the border of the Divided Kingdom and tell Jeroboam, the king of the Northern Kingdom, some bad news about God’s judgement against his wickedness. Meanwhile, this “man of God” was told by the Lord not to eat anything while he was in enemy territory.
Of course, the inevitable happens: the “man of God” is stopped by an “old prophet” from the Northern Kingdom who invites him over for some food. The “old prophet” tells the “man of God” that God said that he should come over and eat (which was a lie). The “man of God” obeys the lie and eats with the “old prophet.” The punishment for disobeying the Lord was death by lion attack. And the man’s donkey just stood by the lion after the killing.
“Wow.” How cool is it to find new and exciting stories (at least to me) in the Bible. There is a reason for every word in this Holy Book. And this is one stop along the way of the narrative of the Kings of Israel (including the time of the Divided Kingdom after Solomon and before the Babylonian captivity). One moral of the story is: listen to the voice of God and stick to it even if someone tries to tell you otherwise (even if they say, “God says so”). Perhaps this will be woven into a lesson for kids. They like animals. And the boys really like it when lions are involved.