Monday, July 30, 2007

Children Matter 1b

There are questions at the end of chapter 1 but near the end of the chapter the authors briefly talk about (metaphors for) children's ministry that
- informs (cognitive formation)
- forms (everything else, more relational)
- transforms (the work of the Holy Spirit - we can only facilitate)
- deforms (unfortunate but it happens)

They say, "Some metaphors for children's ministry may actually be deforming, particularly when they conflict with the purpose of the ministry. The ways this 'deforming' happens are usually subtle. It happens when an essential aspect of ministry is either omitted or overshadowed by some facet of the metaphor, so that children get a distorted view of God and/or the Christian life." (CM p. 23)

My question: What things have the potential to deform the faith of children (ideas, interactions, activities...)? What words, what actions distort, misrepresent, or miscommunicate who God is and what He asks of us? As the authors say, "The ways this 'deforming' happens are usually subtle." How does it happen? The mill stones that Jesus warns us about.

More CM Blogs

Youth Pastors

Saturday, July 28, 2007

Children Matter 1a

Let me highly recommend this book as a starting point for group discussions for leadership teams at churches, children's ministry teams, a combined group of children's ministry people and parents. The authors created the book because they needed a textbook for seminary students but don't let that scare you. Their conversational style makes it very readable for the rest of us. Gather a group and take 15 weeks and explore the ideas and then make the changes that you need to make. Even 30 weeks (2 sessions per chapter) would be time well spent. ANY amount of time would be time well spent.

Here's some meat to chew on:

Chapter 1 compares some of the metaphors we use when we think of children as learners, and adults as teachers, with metaphors from scripture. The metaphors from scripture are more "active" metaphors. The authors say, "...teaching provides learners with continual interaction with the learning environment. It recognizes that children learn best through experiences they can make sense of and reflect on, and that they need to feel valued and accepted. We want children to realize that the Bible is a real book about God's involvement in the lives of real people whom he created and loved, who did real things at a real place at a certain time. These concepts are pilgrim-like. Learning in which teacher and learners are fellow pilgrims looks somewhat foreign, however, to most people involved in children's ministry." (CM p. 10)

"If we think about what we 're trying to do- to help children want to become followers of Jesus- we need to see them as pilgrims, different from sponges. Pilgrims are people on a journey that has a high purpose. Christian's purpose is to be lifelong followers of Jesus. If we view children as sponges, we expect them to sit still with their hands in their lap and their mouths shut while they "absorb" the Bible. If we view them as pilgrims, we will help the children enter into the story and interact with it in any number of ways. These differences matter because not only do we want children to love the Lord Jesus, we also want them to love his story - the Bible." (CM p. 6-7)

The traditional Sunday school model was built on the traditional "school" model but they ask, If our purpose is "mainly to introduce children to the Bible and Jesus Christ...[i]s this purpose really achieved through schooling methods? Could it be that the School model unintentionally treats the Bible like a textbook from which children extract information, just as they learn the names of rivers and oceans from a geography text?" (CM p. 11)

From my perspective, another thing about making the time we have with kids to nurture their relationships with Jesus like "school" is this. If children are having trouble with school, if they struggle with reading and writing, if the school environment and their experience in the classroom is negative or always hard for them - why would they want to go somewhere that resembles "school" on their day off? Why would they want anything to do with the God who lives there? The flip side is that kids might find reading and writing more enjoyable when they get to interact with something (or someone) they love.

Mentally jump with me a little. In Children Matter they list scriptural metaphors (agricultural imagery) for learners like seed, vines, sheep, pilgrims, disciples). We could say, God used that imagery because He was interacting with an agricultural society. But what if God intentionally gave us that imagery to keep every generation connected to the outdoor world He created? Yes, there are metaphors and images in our computer/entertainment/technological generation available to us that other generations didn't have. Maybe this imagery is stronger than the old, or maybe it just seems that way because we're just more intimately acquainted with the technology of our age than we are with the outdoors.

But what if growing a seed or raising a grape vine or watching the sheep on a farm will not only tell us something about God that technology can't but trying to understand it will keep us connected to the living world He made full of timeless images?

God is spirit and He became flesh and blood and we know Him as the Living God. He's not mechanical or man-made. We can learn more about Him through any of the sciences (natural and physical) if we observe all that He's put into motion. We can learn from our own technology but the living, interactive, relational something that happens between living things is different. Learning, whether it's technical or natural science, is something alive. Discipleship was like that and still is however old or young you are.

I'm rambling.

I'm still in chapter 1 and as usual I'm reading more than 1 book at a time (slowly) but I'm loving the way these ladies think. They're asking the right questions. Sooo exciting! Know what? I don't even want to blog about this book because I won't be doing it justice.

Another sidebar: Do you know why we need to keep asking questions and examining the ideas that drive us? Scripture says (I think it's in Proverbs) as a man thinks, so is he. And that has everything to do with faith and learning and following Jesus.


Thursday, July 26, 2007


Well, I've started to read Children Matter [Eerdmans, 2005].

In their own words, Scottie May, Beth Posterski, Catherine Stonehouse and Linda Cannell took on "...the challenge of equipping students to 'serve the present age.'" Textbooks get old. They needed a text that wouldn't get old. They brought together their different faith traditions, their different experiences in this country and abroad, yet they explore their common ground together with "... a passion to see the amazing spiritual potential of children being nurtured in faith communities around the globe; to see those communities realize that they are not fully the church unless children are present."

I have to read it because they start with ". . .perceptions and assumptions -that presently guide our decisions and practices." I like it already. They have their own thought questions at the end of each chapter. Of course they do, it's a college textbook...

I'll try to keep it short (my comments) but it (the book) looks like a gold mine!

Thursday, July 19, 2007

A New Discovery

When I go to my site meter, it's interesting to find out how people get to Emerging Kids.

This was one such page, an interesting post to ponder at Beacon Hills . Anything that affects us as grown-ups has implications for children. In this post they talk about the absence and presence of God both contributing to our relationship with God. I haven't thought about that. It's an interesting post with art to ponder.

I have thought about God hiding and having to look for Him. I've also thought about how hard it is to trust God while children and the people we love wrestle with God. It's hard for us but it's healthy for them to wrestle for their own faith. We want to tell them how to find their way out and have it done. We need faith in God's love for them and wisdom to know how to walk with them and still let them wrestle. Baby birds have to peck their own way out of an egg. If we help them, they don't grow strong enough to live once they make it out. At least that's what I was told when I was little. Maybe faith is like that, too.

We can ponder but we don't have to explain everything. The way I understand it, the Orthodox traditionally respond to unanswerable questions with "It's a mystery." It keeps us wrestling to know God. It keeps us running after God.

Although most of the stories of scripture are stories about when God was there, it would be an interesting study to do alone or with kids looking at the stories where Jesus was late or when it seemed that God wasn't there. Even in scripture, sometimes God wasn't there when someone thought He should be. We focus on the fact that He came, which is good, but we don't always give people time to ponder how it felt thinking He wasn't going to come. I don't even think we need a "why." Just the idea of Jesus or God not being there is something to ponder. Maybe it would help us face the times when it seems to be true.

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

A Fun Read

A site to explore! This is from Ragsstudio in Singapore. When I clicked on Children's Ministry, I saw this. "Great Sunday because there were no fights this week." If you keep reading they're doing some very fun and creative things with their kids and serious, too. He even has videos!

WWTK: Lots Children

We find the story of Lot's children in Genesis 19. Had they experienced life as part of Abram's entourage and life in the city of Sodom and Gomorrah? Or just city? Not clear. And this wasn't just a city. This was a city so bad that God chose to destroy it. Abram cared enough about Lot to entreat God to rescue him. But God didn't rescue just Lot. He rescued, or tried to rescue, his whole family.

So the angels go off to rescue Lot because of the faith of Abram and because God was willing. Lot feels compelled to protect these strangers from his city so he offers his own daughters to the men outside. Did the girls know what their father did? Were they within earshot? They were engaged to other men. Though the cultural/historical context probably affected how they thought and what they felt, their father had offered them to appease a mob - probably not the cultural norm even in ancient times.

Lot was willing to sacrifice family members to protect these strangers. What does that say about Lot? Good? Bad?

Lot calls the men of the city "friends."The men of the city still see Lot as an "alien." (NIV) Had Lot's daughters grown up part of a "alien" family trying to make friends in a sexually charged city?

Violent men are trying to break into their house. The angels strike the men blind.

Were the girls curious about these strangers? Enamored? We don't know.

The angels tell Lot's family it's time to flee. They're going to destroy the city. But the girls are engaged to be married. What about the engagements? Their intendeds aren't willing to leave. Their future husbands think their future father-in-law is joking. "We'll stay, thanks!". I don't know how that would have worked in that particular culture and who was obligated to whom but it must certainly have been awkward.

Lot, his wife, and his daughters are literally dragged away from all they know - possessions, people, promises. Their father is still negotiating with the angels, not just human strangers but angels. The girls probably see their mother turn back and turn into salt. Ah, maybe not. If they had turned around they would have turned to salt, too...right? But it must have been pretty clear that when these strangers say something, they mean it.

What's left of the family take refuge in a neighboring city and then these city people flee to the mountains. They hide in a cave. Odd? They must have had provisions, they have wine.

Though their engagements fell through, the girls have a strong sense of preserving their family line. Their actions violate Hebrew Law and our modern day sensibilities yet the end result: Lot fathered the Moabites and the Ammonites. Neither people were allowed to enter the house of the Lord for 10 generations but neither did God allow the Hebrews to harass them or take away the land that God had given them. Despite all the hassles with Moab and Ammon, generations later, Ruth would appear in God's story - a Moabite and great-grandmother to a boy named David - her husband part of Abram's story and she part of Lot's.

Why is it that, in the scriptures, God tells us what He tells us and leaves out what He leaves out? I wonder.


According to Bible Gateway, there are about 30 references to Lot (capital L) in the scriptures. There's probably a lot to learn about the man (and the child) . The most obvious thing we know about Lot is that he is the son of Abram's brother -Abram's nephew - but possibly like a son in that Abram and Lot lived together for a long time. Lot had opportunity to see a man of faith up close. He was "only" a nephew, not a son, but he was a child in one of God's stories.

We don't know how old Lot was when they left Haran, but we know he moved when Abram moved as God sent Abram on his journey. We can read the story of Abram and imagine it through the eyes of his nephew- when would Lot have been around? When would he not? But God didn't tell Abram's story from Lot's point of view.

We know that Lot lived with his uncle's family well into adulthood. What he thought, how he felt, the things that affected him as a boy are all speculation but we know he prospered like his uncle.We know there came a time when there wasn't enough room for them to coexist with all their possessions.

Abram could have been content with Lot as an adopted son. Abram could have said "Thanks, God, one is enough." But God made Abram a promise to give him a child of his own and Abram believed God. We don't know if that effected Abram's relationship with his nephew. Did Lot get the short end of the deal? Or did he prosper anyway? It appears that Abram took good care of Lot. He came to Lot's rescue once in person and once in prayer.

2 Peter suggests that Lot was a righteous godly man buy we don't know much about Lot's faith. Abram was the one in the family who seems to be living the faith-driven life. We can guess that Lot spent a fair amount of time in Abram's company. Yet from a evangelical or fundamentalist point of view, Abram probably wasn't always the best role-model in the world.

Lot didn't seem surprised when the old man sent two strangers to him with a strange message on an odd mission. If your uncle sent two strangers to your house on the same mission with the same message, what would you think? Did he know they came because of Abram? We don't know.

Monday, July 16, 2007

Another Book 7/07

I'm only 108 pages in but whether you're married, single, divorced, engaged - whatever state you're in, Sacred Marriage by Gary Thomas is worth reading. Even if you think you have a great marriage this book is worth reading. Even if you've read every other book on the subject and you're tired of reading yet another...this book is worth reading.

He has a book on parenting, too.

Saturday, July 14, 2007

Scripture and Sacred Story

I was googling "sacred story" and discovered this particularly rich Bible resource sponsored the United Methodist Women. It's especially nice for lay folk like myself.

Less than perfect

I have two new WWTK posts - one about Lot and one about his children. But before I post them, ponder with me a little.

2 Tim. 3:14-17 is a familiar passage about the scriptures which means that it would apply to the portion of the scriptures that include God's stories.

Perhaps one of the most interesting characteristics about God's stories is that His characters are so "not perfect." Frankly, even Jesus yelled at people and caused a commotion in the temple which would lead some people to conclude that He wasn't perfect either. For whatever reason, having grown up in the church, these characters are forever forged in my mind as perfect. Yet every time I read the scriptures it's evident to me that their lives and their choices were far from church-perfect. If they'd lived today, how many of them would we find in our churches? If so, wouldn't they be the ones in need of rebuke, correction and re-training? We're called to live godly lives and these are the people we get to learn from.

What does it mean? What's "perfect"? Is it relevant to our faith? Loving God and loving neighbors - that's relevant. Is being "perfect" what faith and Godly living is all about? What are we striving for as believers walking with God? God's stories are about God interacting and intervening in the lives of men and women like us - people from another culture and another time but still like us. God, of course, is the same yesterday, today, and forever-the God who opened the Red Sea, sent plagues, healed the sick, poured out His Spirit, saved a baby in a basket...

All those stories! "[my paraphrase] You've known the scriptures since you were little. Continue in what you've learned and become convinced of. Consider who you learned from. God's stories (and all of scripture) are able to make you wise for salvation through faith in Christ. They are God-breathed. Use them for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so men and women of God can be thoroughly equipped for every good work." Some stories say "When _______ did this, these were the consequences." Some are not so clear. Yet even as grown-ups God's stories keep teaching us. They rebuke, correct and train us in righteousness. They equip us for every good work even though God's characters aren't perfect. We're learning about God.

Wednesday, July 11, 2007


On my way back from taking my daughter to work this morning at 7:50 am a mother duck with her six almost grown ducklings paraded across a six lane road. Good thing I was paying attention to the road. The good news, traffic stopped. They weren't even huge Canada geese, just small dull mallard ducks(I think).

First, the ducklings were like little confident soldiers crossing the street, the perfect image of their mom, in a perfect line, all of them seemingly oblivious to the potential danger they were in. They could have been smushed.

Second, life stopped for them (in the form of cars, of course) . There weren't many cars coming from the other direction. Most were coming from our direction but cars stopped. No accidents. Praise God for all the times we do stupid things and life ought to crush us but God stops traffic for us. We probably don't even notice, just like those ducks.

Maybe it's just us - Rochester, NY- maybe it could happen in any town - three lanes of traffic stopping for ducks. Maybe I'm paying more attention because one of our kids had an accident yesterday - no injuries, praise God (the God who preserves man and beast.)

Thanks Lord!

Monday, July 09, 2007

Insights from Unexpected Places

I'm reading Unwritten Rules of Social Relationships by Dr. Temple Grandin and Sean Barron. It has special relevance if you are related to or teaching anyone with ASD ( related to autism). But two quotes in particular jumped out at me that seemed appropriate for anyone working with children and for believers wrestling with justice and mercy.

on pg 140 Temple says, "In short, my mother was fond of reminding me that childhood is a temporary state. Both of my parents admitted that childhood is essentially very stressful and that most of the traits prized in children have little to do with adult achievement or functionality. Without them impressing the importance of this little secret on me, I might not have been able to keep going through high school." Temple grew up in the 50's - higher expectations for children, more structure and consistency between home, school, and neighbors. She was also more task-oriented than people-oriented.

[Context: Children are taught to tell the truth but as children get older they learn when it's appropriate and when it isn't. As a child, Sean was very honest with his host about hating the salad she made.] On pg. 142 Sean says, "When I responded to people in these and similar ways, I ended up with truth and few friends. And friends are a lot more fun to hang out with than absolute truth* ... " He learned that ". . . it's better to stretch the truth a little than to hurt someone a lot. . . the only absolute rule of life is that there are few absolutes..."

*You might disagree here but I think both insights are profound. I thought Temple's comment profound because I think sometimes it's hard to let kids be kids AND prepare them well for adult life. I thought Sean's comment profound because Jesus is the Truth yet, the Gospels show Him spending a LOT of time with people and apparently they enjoyed being with Him. They followed Him. Do you enjoy hanging out with people who only care about Absolute Truth?

Sunday, July 08, 2007

One year

The site meter's been on this sight for about a year now. Thanks for coming!