Thursday, January 31, 2008


Thank you for telling me when God uses something you find here! Praise God and many blessings!

I think last week or the week before visitors here were evenly divided between US, UK, and Canada. That was interesting.

Today, more visitors from Canada.

A Canada story - I grew up in a Presbyterian church in Central Upstate NY. My mom was an organist. My father and various members of my extended family were elders, choir members, etc etc. (I decided to be an agnostic in high school, LOL!) We moved off the farm and to a new town and then moved again, back on a farm.

My first year in college - I was commuting. A group of high school kids in this new town had come back from a camp in Canada on fire for Jesus - kids from 2-3 different churches (there were only 3 churches in town). Before long, kids they knew who weren't going to church began giving their lives to Jesus, too. At some point, they started a Christian folk group and wanted another guitar player. Our family went to the Presbyterian church and my sister must have told them that I played guitar so I joined them.

After playing with them for about a year we went to Toronto to take part in a Christian folk festival at St. Paul's Cathedral (this is early '70's). I was sitting on the bus, waiting for everyone else to load to come home and for the first time I "knew" with every part of my being that God had a purpose for me - not a specific call but a purpose. I was "born again"! The passage from Jeremiah 29:11 - I know the plans I have for you plans for welfare and not for calamity, to give you a future and a hope... the Matt 17:20 scripture, if you have faith as a grain of mustard you can say to this mountain be up and cast into the sea were very much alive to me as I was sitting there. I didn't have an exact quote in my head at the time but that was the gist of it.

Anyway, I will always have a soft spot for Canada and Canadians because sometime in April 1972 I was re - born in Canada . . . and it's so interesting because I googled our parent Canadian Christian folk group yesterday and one of the members is now a global worship leader. One of the pastors from the faith community I attended near the end of college and after in the Finger Lakes region in Upstate NY is also a global worship leader. . .

Glory to God . . . it's just interesting!!!

Tuesday, January 29, 2008

CM: Children Matter

Opening Chapter 14 of Children Matter: "In the Gospels we see that Jesus pays special attention to people on the margins. He notices people whom others would rather avoid*." (CM p. 311)

"This chapter [chapter 14] will focus on some concerns related to ministry to hurting children and will explore ways to make sure that the church is a sanctuary and a place of welcome for all children." (CM p. 311)

They look at physical, attitude, program, and other barriers that leaders face as they try to draw marginalized children into the faith community. They mention physical, emotional, and learning challenges. They talk about classroom management. They talk about children with special needs, refugees, children at risk. They remind us [and this is important] that every child comes with gifts to share. This chapter is full of inspirational examples and ideas but I see it less a how-to and more a wonderful and inspiring tool for attitude adjustment. Their wise deep-hearted caring is contagious. And as usual, I love their stories.

At the end of the chapter they say, "...we need to be intentional about offering sanctuary to them [children], about providing a place that not only is safe but feels safe to all children- a place where each child can grow to be the person God created him or her to be." [CM p. 329] Their emphasis on the child him/herself feeling safe requires that we see all that we do through a child's eyes. This is far more important than most of us think. I'm not talking about coddling that disables or tolerating hurtful behavior/lack of self-control or catering to self-centeredness.

When a child has a problem, have we taken the time to see it through their eyes? Will we take the time to lead them away from the ideas that keep them prisoner and lead them to higher ground? It isn't enough for us to stand convinced that we have a state of the art facility or a fool-proof policy or a crackerjack program. It isn't enough unless every child feels safe, loved, and cared for when they walk through the door. Not from our perspective but from theirs.

It isn't enough unless every child is enabled and equipped to become all that God created him/her to be. Not for our perspective, but from theirs. They won't put it in those terms. They'll just be happy!!

The authors are focusing on very special needs in this chapter but what they're saying applies to any child who feels out of place or marginalized. It's hard to be so attuned to individual children when your numbers increase but as your numbers increase the discreet attention to individuals that they're talking about is probably even more important.

*Resource: The authors reference a book by Stewart D. Govig, Strong at the Broken Places published by John Knox Press. Thinking my husband might enjoy a book like that, I looked for it on I ended up scrolling down this list of books by other people about pastoral care for special situations - interesting titles if you scroll through all the pages, books that you professionals are probably already aware of. The first page includes alot of books about mental illness. Keep going and you'll find some books specifically about children in special situations.

CM: Special Ministries

"Ministry opportunities abound. Ministry is a mindset of continually being the hands and feet of Jesus Christ and seeing others through his eyes. When we are aware of what is happening in the lives of children, we realize that children's ministry calls for more than offering them Sunday morning worship and learning. These are very important experiences, but usually they are not enough for the child's Christian formation, particularly if children struggle with complex issues, lack nurturing caregivers, or know very little about the gospel." (CM p. 282)

The authors tell the story of a child and his family coming into a church that was "ill-prepared to minister to [the child's] needs" and how the faith community rallied drawing on the communication skills of another child to bridge the gap and allowing a family member to give to other children and the community from skills she learned working with her child. They share other situations where faith communities had unplanned opportunities to minister to the needs of hurting children. The children could have gone unnoticed but they didn't - to the credit of the individuals in these churches who noticed and the communities that lent support. A family suffering tragedy in the larger community could have been written off as "not our problem," but they weren't.

The authors say, "No prepackaged curriculum can respond to the uniqueness of these needs. Thus it is the heart of the leader and the readiness to respond that are most significant." They talk about how important flexibility is. (CM p. 285) Notice that if members of a community are committed to help those who see, anticipate, and reach out to meet the unexpected needs of children (or anyone) asking, "What would Jesus do?" His Body becomes the minister, not just one person.

"God must be at the center. Not teaching the Bible, not knowing about God, not attracting large numbers of kids, not having fun, but knowing God. This must be the driving purpose in all that we do in the name of ministry with children." (CM p. 285)

The bottom line: we each represent the living God - the choices we make, the way we respond to people, the way we behave, the words we say. As a group of "believers" we represent the Living God and that's what the world sees and hears. That's what adults and children in the church and in the world respond to or don't. We can say the world rejects God because they reject us but we better be darned sure that God would be pleased with the way we represent Him. That's ultimately how the children (and adults) around us will come to know God.

Scary, isn't it.

The authors (as always) ask great questions, provide tools, and give wonderful examples of special ministries in this country and abroad but whatever we do with our ministry time or with the individual moments of our lives for that matter as they say, "God must be at the center...knowing God..." (CM p. 285) What more is there to say?

Monday, January 28, 2008

Ongoing discussion at Emerging Parents

If you haven't been following the Children's Ministry discussion at Emerging Parents, there are still some interesting thoughts and ideas coming in.

Friday, January 25, 2008

More Reflections 2

Although I understand an anger that retaliates against injustice - that returns evil for evil - it so violates my sensibilities. I'm the one who constantly struggles with the dictator part of benevolent dictator and that's just working with my dogs. But dogs and children need correction. Grown ups need to hear the truth. There's a time for everything under heaven yet Jesus told Peter that he who takes up the sword will die that way.

I'm not a theologian but here's where my tangential thinking went ...When we suffer and wrestle we relate more intimately with the Psalms and those life questions that have no easy answers. We identify a little more with the profound emotional experiences we read in the Psalms - experiences that David and Messiah shared. The Psalms are full of emotion some joy, some much darker. I think that often the power of the emotions being expressed by the psalmists are lost on us, as Christians.

When you find yourself immersed and sinking deeper into the dark mud of tragedy, despair, betrayal or when you find yourself not outraged by horrific injustice but numbed by it, you understand a tiny bit more, you catch a tiny glimmer of Jesus on the cross and its impact. When you recognize Christ Jesus sharing your grief [or more appropriately you have the privilege of sharing His grief] in places you can't even describe the only thing you can do is fall on your face and worship Him. You may never tell a living soul because you can't articulate where you were or how He was there with you but you know He was. You may never understand why He let something happen but you know He was holding you, grieving with you, lifting you out of a deep dark hole, taking your hands and encouraging you to keep walking even though the experience left you crippled.

A new thought for me, another tangent: Jesus was resurrected but He still carried the scars of His crucifixion. Was it just to convince Thomas that He was who He said He was? In the New Testament, Christ's forgiveness had, and still has, the profound and supernatural power to heal even the crippled, even the demon-possessed. They left His presence changed and healed and whole.

Jesus asked God to forgive those who beat and killed and betrayed Him. He would have been perfectly justified to seek revenge - an eye for an eye. God not only forgave and healed, He raised Jesus from the death inflicted on Him, the death He chose. I never thought about the fact that even with a whole new resurrection body He kept the scars. It was the scars that identified Him as Messiah.

Thursday, January 24, 2008

More Reflections 1

My sister gave me a set of books for Christmas: Psalms by Derek Kidner [Tyndale Old Testament Commentaries]

Something I read this morning made me reflect back on Turtles Can Fly:

The author reminds us that the Psalms were written before the Gospels influenced our thinking.

"...To get fully in tune with the psalmists on this issue [the substance and tone of their cries for vengence] we should have to suspend our consciousness of having a gospel to impart (which affects our attitude to fellow sinners) and our assurance of a final righting of wrongs (which affects our attitude to present anomalies.) Without these certainties, only a cynic could feel no impatience to see justice triumphant and evil men broken; and these authors were no cynics. It would be better, in fact, to speak of their attuning our ears to the gospel than of our adjusting to their situation, for we can not truly hear its answers until we have felt the force of their questions. . ." [Kidner, p. 26]

We can't really hear how profoundly the Gospel answers the psalmists' grave questions about life unless we have truly felt the force of their questions. "Turtles Can Fly" illustrates the force of such questions...

This also jumped out at me: "What he [David] asked of God was no more - and could certainly be no less - than the verdict and intervention which a victim of injustice could expect from him, David himself, as king of Israel. The more seriously he [David] took his ideal of kingship from God . . . [the author quotes 2 Sam 23: 1, 3] the more unthinkable it was that he should slander Him by underrating His abhorrence of evil." [Kidner, p27]

David would be slandering God by under-rating God's abhorrence of evil.

More Resources

Some of you may find interesting thoughts at The Emerging Highlander (tag- Youth Ministry)

An interesting paper on Celtic monasticism and the missional church by Pat Loughery. The book The Dangerous Act of Worship: Living God's Call to Justice in the sidebar looks intriguing, too.

This list compiled by Earl Creps at Assemblies of God Theological Seminary in Springfield MO. is 4 years old (Capax Dei in Rochester NY has since merged with Quest and has become Artisan church) but if you like lists and have time to explore it you might find some interesting Postmodern sites.

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

More Random Food for Thought

An Emerging church blog from Canada with a list of
emerging churches across the border. Fun and creative names!

At * the author mentions rites of passage. She links to an article at where you'll find a significant conversation about the life and death of churches, suicide, and rites of passage - different threads of conversations intertwined. Really interesting thoughts leaving me with a lot of questions about child-like faith, grown-up faith, and responsibility.

I'm wondering if the closest thing to a rite of passage between childhood and adulthood in our culture is 1) getting a job/moving out on your own/ supporting yourself or 2) getting married if it includes all of # 1. When college comes first, those things are delayed unless a young adult enters college intent on becoming self-sufficient ASAP.

[past posts at Emerging Kids c. accountability and rite of passage: 6/19/07, 12/27/05, 9/14/05]

Yesterday I watched the DVD "Turtles Can Fly" with some of my young adult kids. Preview it. It's not for children. Not sure how old a young person I would show it to. Middle/Late High School? Maybe Middle School...not sure. To say it's a profound statement about the human spirit dealing with tragedy can't even begin to touch the heart of the story. I can't even imagine talking about it. But I don't think you can show it to young people without talking about it...

*Not sure how I feel about monasticism except that occassional retreats are wonderful! Jesus withdrew from time to time but it seems He spent most of His time out in the world. You could argue - "He's God and we're not" so people need to take long focused devotional retreats alone with God. Is it important for the church to have people who are thinking and praying in isolation? Something else worth pondering as branches of the Church revisit monastic experience. Children . . . children raised in less monastic and more monastic communities. That would be the topic of discussion.

Somehow all of this is connected. . .

Sunday, January 20, 2008

Misc Resources and Activity Ideas

A couple of resources:

If you want to increase your vocabulary and send small quantities of rice to the hungry check out

If you look back through these posts far enough you'll find various ways to engage young children during a worship service. Scroll down here and you'll find a small purse made out of zippers. If you are clever with a sewing machine you could probably find a way to do this so each zipper opens into a separate pocket. Then, put a quiet, challenging, interesting small motor activity into each pocket ie. a mirror, a thin mitten, a finger puppet, a tiny folded paper book with a story told with magazine pictures or a Bible story or colors glued on the pages, a felt or foam puzzel, gold fish crackers or cheerios . . . you get the idea, or maybe a different felt animal or plastic person in each pocket.

Found an interesting I Spy game at the art museum when I was looking for something else. That gave me an idea, if it hasn't already been done . . . I'd guess that this might be especially fun for kids who have the delightful ability to see creatures outdoors before anyone else does...

Take a large color Bible story picture or any picture for that matter. Make two color copies. Keep one copy of the picture intact (don't cut it up!) Take the other copy and cut out all the items to spy in the picture. You can leave them as cutouts from the picture or glue them on 3x5 cards. Laminate. You can use it as a constructive child-sitting-through-adult- worship distraction or use it to create any number of games for different age groups in Sunday school.

You can also take a Bible Story picture (or any colorful magazine picture) and cut it into as many pieces as you find age appropriate and make it into a puzzle. Again, you probably want to laminate it. 3 pieces for 3 year olds, 4 pieces for 4 year olds...whatever your child can handle...

Just some ideas!

Saturday, January 19, 2008

Teaching, Learning, Worship

Here's an independent observation. I caught a glimmer of this as I was writing the earlier posts. It's a little more clear now so I'll try to put it into words. If it's true, there's at least one passage from scripture to go with this...

We tackle life with a hunger to learn more about God and His story in church and out of church ...

As we see and hear and interact with God, living and learning, we can't help but praise Him - (revelation, wonder, awe, praise. . .) We worship Him.

I believe that real worship and loving God with all our heart and mind and soul inevitably overflows to those around us, not as love in the form of Victorian sentimentality but love as a willingness to give and lay down our lives - to live the way Jesus did . . .

We worship, we give, we open up our hearts and minds and lives to hear and see and learn more from or about the Living God and His story through His Word, through all that He's created and in whatever form He wants to use to teach us.

We respond with more wonder, awe, praise, worship . . . because our God is a great and wonderful God and we want more of Him . . .

See the pattern? Too simple? Is it selfish? Super-spiritual? Or is that what humility and childlike faith is all about . . . always watching and listening and learning and believing and saying thank you . . . God is amazing!! "Lord, You're amazing!"

Thursday, January 17, 2008

CM The Nature of Teaching 2

The section about the skill of listening is wonderful! Lots of practical suggestions in a very short space. The line I like best, "It takes discipline to learn to listen to silence." [CM p. 265]

They talk about questions that cause children to think, reflect and ponder. These are questions that require more than a learner just retrieving information. Like the authors, many educators use Bloom's Taxonomy as a reference for developing questions that require different levels of thinking. Their discussion of questions includes more discussion of story. [CM p. 266-269]

Their section about Teaching Young Children is "The Best!" Not literally but preschool is my favorite age group to teach. I love the simple but profound observations they make in this book. They talk about use of space, tone of voice and pace. They remind us that young children are sensitive to our attitudes, our actions, our expectations first and to the things we say, second. The authors talk about the language we use and how literal young children are. They talk about how to reference time for little ones. Nice! Have you ever considered that one year is 1/4 of the life of a four year old? It's like my referencing the last 12-15 years. They remind us that young children learn through play. The combination of structure and play, space and pace, tone and attitude all factor in - as much or more than content. I have to say as my five children have grown to become young adults I've grown to appreciate the wonder of all the different stages of childhood but if I get to pick an age group to interact with, it's still preschool. [CM p. 269-271]

They finish the chapter with a discussion of various models used for Christian education (old and new) They talk about "Training Teachers for Alternative Models," "Effective Teaching, Whatever the Model," and they discuss some of the challenges to effective teaching. [CM p. 271-281] I'll read that part next.

When you talk about the "nature" of learning, the "nature" of teaching you're talking about something organic, something alive not just about substance, information, values, morals. In every teaching and learning situation you have a living teacher, a living learner, the living Word, and God's Holy Spirit - alive and "called alongside to help." Amazing! Scary! It's a wonder that God would ever trust us with something like teaching and learning...something so alive! How to keep the living part alive ... How to help it thrive ...

CM: The Nature of Teaching

In Children Matter, the authors talk about the nature of learning [CM p. 257-264] and then they talk about the nature of teaching.

They open the section with "Jesus is a master teacher...Luke 10:25-37...He listens, He asks questions, and uses story." Again, they credit Dr Ward. They say, the Master doesn't often answer the questions, nor does He often "explain meaning".

from Robert Pazmino - "Teaching at its best can foster a sense of wonder and awe about God and the amazing variety of God's creation."

Parker Palmer - "To teach is to create a space where obedience to truth is practiced."

The authors - Teachers
-"facilitate spiritual growth and transformation..."
- "familiarize learners with scriptural texts and truths..."
so students
- "can make a personal connection with the material and its core subject, Jesus Christ."

"...[T]he human teacher is best defined as one who provides space for the learner to encounter the Holy Spirit."

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

CM: Learning Styles

A couple of rich and challenging thoughts to ponder from Children Matter from the section "Each Learner is Unique". (The teacher is also unique.) For all the reading about learning styles I've done over the years, this is wisdom:

1) The authors say, we should acknowledge the strengths and weaknesses of our own preferred learning style. "In so doing, realize that some things that help you learn may actually hinder someone else's learning. Therefore, in teaching be intentional about including learning activities that are uncomfortable for you so that you don't exclude someone whose style might be opposite." [CM p. 262-3]

2) They say that it isn't imperative that you identify each child's learning style if you include something (like an activity) for each learning style in every lesson. That way every child will find something they enjoy and something challenging to take them out of their comfort zone. [CM p. 262-3]

If you find that you're still frustrated with someone, observe. When are they bored, when are excited? If you have a child who never gets excited at church and you ask and can't get an answer from the child, ask his/her parents, siblings, or friends what that child gets excited about - even if they tell you something that most churches will never do. Put your creative thinking cap on and pray and see if God won't show you some activity that you can plan that will tell that child that someone was paying attention to him/her. Somebody noticed. Somebody took the time to find out what he/she cares about - even if it means picking a Sunday to let the kids bring in a show-and-tell or taking a few minutes at the beginning of each class when 2-3 children can bring in something from home to share. Maybe this is didactic but if you have older kids ask them, "Do you think we can learn something about God and His story doing that?" Maybe they just do it because it's fun. There's a time and place for that too.

God already knows what makes each of your kids tick. Ask Him: Lord, help me see! Lord, help me hear!

Hands on Learning 2

It's only now after more than 50 years of faith and learning that I understand! It doesn't mean you give every experience in your life a religious tag. It's learning about the God who made you and letting Him teach you and change you through everything your hands find to do.

I was just thinking about the verse, "Whatever your hand finds to do, do it with all your might as unto the Lord". That's the way I remember it but it's not an accurate quote. Check it out! When I looked it up I was surprised to see that the context for that verse is teaching and learning. I always thought of the verse preceding it in the context of "church."

"Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly as you teach and admonish one another with all wisdom, and as you sing psalms, hymns and spiritual songs with gratitude in your hearts to God. And whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him. (Col. 3: 16-17 NIV) I had a friend once who took that verse pretty literally saying "life with God should be like a musical."

Teaching - doing - learning - worship - teaching -doing- learning - worship. The hyphen is a two-way arrow. Make it into a circle ....

I'm not a Bible student, only a concordance student :-). Here's a question for you Bible students: how big is that word "whatever"?

I'm guessing it's bigger than what we do in church and as big as all the living and learning we do 24/7 - looking for God and His story there. And when we see Him, when we find Him, when we learn more about Him and His story in our day to day, how can we not help but praise Him? We do a little more, we see a little more, we learn a little more, we worship Him even more. How can that love not help but spill over to the people around us?

Hands-on Learning 1

Out of respect for the Children Matter authors, I'm intentionally not giving you a lot of detail. (I hope I'm not misrepresenting all the great things they're saying by leaving out detail.) It's nice to buy second-hand books or pass them around when you're the reader and don't have a lot of money but authors who support themselves writing need to sell their books to make a living. Check out a friend's book or take it out of the library if you need to, but if you really like a book or an author "Support the author! Buy the book!" End of commercial.

I also realize as I google Dr. Ward and Edgar Dale that I should be addressing each of the Children Matter authors as "Doctor." My apologies for that!

If you're looking for technical information about teaching and learning you'll find treasure here. ie. They say Edgar Dale's research tells us that after two weeks a learner retains 10 % of what he/she reads and 90 % of what he/she does - "what is performed as a task." In between you have what is heard, what is seen, what is seen and heard, what is said and written. Hands-on, simulated real life takes the prize! Most people learn best when all their senses are involved. The CM authors say, "Learning is complex. True learning, learning that results in life change, is holistic." [CM p. 259]

They also quote Dr. Ted Ward. As usual, I read LOTS of books when we were home schooling. I remember the book I read by Dr. Ward. It was one of the best! The authors use one of Dr. Ward's metaphors to talk about learning when they compare the thumb to physical development, the index finger to cognitive development, the middle finger to emotional development, the ring finger to social development, the pinky to moral development. Dr. Ward included some nice commentary likening the traits of the individual fingers to the areas they represent. But when asked about spiritual development he represents spiritual development with the palm of the hand. "Spiritual development, he says, cannot be directly addressed or taught. This development occurs when the whole person is involved in learning in ways that evoke awe and wonder and encounters with the living God and his story..." That gem came from class notes from one of his lectures in 1989. [CM p. 260]

I'm glad someone saved those notes to share with us!

Monday, January 14, 2008

Knowing 2

After having written what you just read I opened Children Matter. The authors are talking about teaching and learning. They ask: "How can you tell when someone has learned something? How do you know when you have learned something? What does it mean to 'know'?"[CM p. 257]

If you teach a subject and the kids ace the test, you figure they've learned something. But one child can put together a perfect portfolio of projects and fail the test. Another can ace the test and fail miserably when the instructor reviews his portfolio of work. If you train someone to do a job, you know someone knows what you've trained him to do if he can do the job. Yet someone who's been working in a field for 30 years has an intimate knowledge of what he's doing and that knowledge is different than the most skilled and intuitive rookie. The rookie may be able to ace an exam or evaluation and know all the right answers on the job. The veteran may look at the test questions and fail because he knows that the answers to such questions aren't always black and white when you're on the job. Who knows more?

What does it mean to "know?" How does it happen? Think about the different forms knowledge takes. What makes wisdom different? What drives a person to want to know more? How do we fan the fires of personal initiative and the passion to learn? How do we manage to snuff it out?

What does it mean to "know?" The authors share the Biblical definition. As Christian educators, they emphasize,"...if learning does not result in change toward godliness, it is not true learning." [CM p. 257] They share a very precise and useful sequence for knowing and learning from Isaiah 41:17 -20, [CM p. 258], a sequence we could consider formulaic but it's also "complex...interrelated, holistic" still leaving room for the Holy Spirit to do His job. The authors are more focused and specific than I: "God's story must be kept at the center of these connections." [CM p. 258] Through all the learning that we do, God's story must be kept somewhere at the center of knowing...

Friday, January 11, 2008

Knowing 1

Take a walk with me.

The cemetery across the street is more like a Victorian park than a dour scary place. Lots of famous graves and stories live there. But, at the same time, it's alive. Crows, hawks, swallows, wrens, nuthatches, woodpeckers, ducks, a heron, woodchucks, chipmunks, squirrels, a rabbit, trees, flowers, poison ivy, and a deer - lots of living things live there, too. People come paying respect to loved ones who have passed on. People stroll with the living, walk their dogs, take pictures and make rubbings for graphic design classes. If you walk somewhere often enough, and you're paying attention, you get to know it. You get familiar with the places you walk, the places you live, the places where you spend your time.

Why do I walk in this cemetery? It's 100+ acres nearby, outside but not isolated. We also have a nice park but we find more dogs and people there and after two years Mom's still working on social-with-dog. My confidence grows slowly. In the cemetery, I can see dogs and people coming and decide if I want to go closer or change direction. Nyah tends to ignore the other dogs, the stones interrupt her view. She'd rather sniff. Ellie overcomes some of her fears walking beside different sized inanimate objects, moving flags, and pin wheels. She'd rather sniff, too. And again, the stones block her view. All and all they give me much better attention, our unexpected encounters with dogs and people keep getting better. My confidence keeps growing (though slowly) and I'm getting to know my dogs better.

When I was a kid, if I could get away with it, I'd wander through the cemetery between Sunday School and church and conveniently forget to return until after the service started. Then I'd hang out in the nursery and help with the kids. Church was boring. I think once, when our Sunday school class took a walk out there someone pointed out the graves of children explaining how children died young from disease and how common it was for mother and child to die at birth.

I learned some arithmetic (maybe the only arithmetic I ever learned) subtracting dates because I wanted to know how old the children were when they died.

I went to the cemetery office the other day to ask about a very large monument of a dog and a child. It's out of the way but quite large so I presume it cost plenty in the late 1800's. I was curious to know if there was any connection to the humane society. Don't think there is. But the lady in the cemetery office was really excited to have someone interested to know more about one of these once living people. That may sound a little macabre but it wasn't.

That's when I got thinking about people wanting to know more - people looking for connections both with the people around them and with people who have passed on.

I was thinking about the desire to find out more and to "know," to understand, to know information- in depth information, to know people stories - family histories, histories of "important" people. I was thinking about the desire to connect, to know and be known - basic day to day social friendships and more intimate relationships. I was thinking about the desire to know God. I'm wondering whether we're just hard-wired to want to know and to connect. I'm wondering if we're hard wired to want to know and be known because God made us that way. He knows us already. Maybe He's hoping that when the things we find out or learn fail to fill the void He left for Himself, we'll ultimately come looking for Him, to know Him. Sometimes we come to know Him better through the connections we make with people and the things we learn. But sometimes we come to know Him better when all those things fail.

I took the long way around but it's not too far-fetched, is it?

More thoughts about seeing

Can I add a note to that last post?

I'm not talking about learning to see so we can correct, although there's a time and place for that. I'm talking about the fine art of observation. Some people might call it scientific - learning to see what's there. Observation can be very clinical. But it can also be cause for praising our Creator for His handiwork, the source of object lessons, fuel for encouragement or discussion, fuel for encouragement (in case you missed it the first time) fuel for encouragement (in case you missed it the second and third time).

It's watching your children to catch them doing something good, "Gee! That was wonderful!" And you say to yourself, how did that happen? It takes time to discover how children learn and the things that are most meaningful to them. Maybe it's relaxed time but maybe it requires disciplined looking. Some of the things you discover may be the same for most children, some things won't.

God sees what no one else sees. Behavioural counselors learn to see the triggers that cause behaviours. Artists see and put what they see in a form that (hopefully) enables others to see what they see (courtesy of my daughter Jenny). Photograhers see. So many times I take photos and I'm sooo disappointed because I didn't take a picture of what I actually saw. I'm getting better but why is that? Writers see, take what they see and put it into words and stories enabling others to share ideas or experiences. Musicians hear in the same way. Counselors see with their hearts.

Have some fun! Use your imagination. Play with "seeing". Maybe there are wonderful books about seeing out there somewhere. I have no clue! I think you'll be surprised at what you see - good and bad. Give thanks and praise! Maybe you'll even find yourself worshipping!

CM:Teaching Learning - Learn to See

If I tell you everything that jumps out at me I'd be retelling what they've already published. But hear are some random questions:

Do you make time and space for your children to encounter God? How? When? Where? [CM p. 252] Watch and listen to you children: At what point when you have a wonderful experience together (yes, it can even be a "learning" experience) at what point do you find you and/or your children looking up at God (literally or figuratively) full of wonder, adoration, praise, thanks, awe....

Open your eyes. Look. See. Notice when a child or even when you, yourself, are "engaged in [your] own learning." I'm a rookie learning to help with dog obedience classes. One of the hardest things to do is to learn to see. Timing rewards and corrections is critical. Relaxing and having fun is critical, too. But seeing...a good teacher, a good coach, a good trainer is someone who can see. One of the qualities that endears God to me is that I know He sees.

"...[C]hildren are not just part of the church tomorrow. They are part of the church today...children learn as part of a community that is committed to their development." [CM p. 256] When and where are the children around you learning? How are they learning? I don't mean "in the classroom at 10 pm every Sunday morning". I mean the things that they take away and keep doing. The things that surprise you. The things you didn't "teach" them. The things that change how they think and how they act - the things that change them.

CM:Teaching Learning - the Story

Past my random and mostly irrelevant story. . . Because Children Matter (from the book) how we approach teaching and learning matters.

The authors begin this chapter: "The role of teaching in the church is crucial. If the stories and truths of redemption history are not taught, the church will die. Redemption history is the Story that must be at the center of all our teaching in the church." [CM p. 246] The folk of the New Testament called Jesus "Rabbi," "Teacher," and we are His body*.

In this chapter, the authors share some of their own stories. They talk about "Key Principles" of learning, "The Nature of Learning", "Insights About Learning", the uniqueness of the learner, "The Nature of Teaching", "Critical Strategies of Teaching", "Teaching the Very Young", models that exist in churches, "Effective Teaching - Whatever the Model." [CM p. 246-281]

Great stuff! The best? In this chapter they focus on how we teach and how children learn "The Story." We can learn about telling the Story from the stories the authors tell . :-) [CM p. 246-254]

*Is it God's intention for the Body of Christ to embody the names of God? Healer, Comforter, Shepherd, Lord, Father, Counselor, Provider....maybe not Lord and Father because we are His Bride...but I wonder...

Readjusting Learning Goals

Well, I took Nyah to Canine Good Citizenship class last night. Almost missed the first class last week because the lecture was at 7 instead of the usual 8 o'clock class time which I should know for all the times we've been down there. Only a master "space cadet" (if you recall the term from the '70's) can look at a registration confirmation paper for just that information almost every day for three weeks and not see given information even though that particular information takes up a third of the page, is highlighted in yellow AND it was probably in bold type, too.

Although there are ways she did great and ways we failed miserably, if she will listen to me and do loooooooong sit stays and down stays while we're waiting in a loooooooong line for our turn we will make significant progress. (ADD in dog and owner - possibly.) There's an incentive for a new pet therapy initiative and lots of people and their dogs are ready to go through the program and start work, they just need to have the CGC class to go on to the next level. That's why the class is so big.

Needless to say, we won't be moving on to the next level just yet. (I knew that!) If she can get through a whole class being nice to every dog she encounters and listen to me I will be in heaven! I hope the dogs in heaven are....

Never mind.

I don't think I'm lowering my expectations, just readjusting my goals. (There was something about that in a previous post.) It's making the most of an opportunity to work on listening and patience in a very stressful situation with mostly very well-behaved dogs. And they'll be throwing out tidbits about strategies for being more social. I'm mostly there for the tidbits - a scavenger by nature. Hah!

Maybe we'll pass someday but that isn't what matters to me. She and I need to relax! Stay tuned. we'll see what happens..

Wednesday, January 09, 2008

Follow up: Karyn Henley

Karyn Henley books at Amazon. Worth checking out!

Monday, January 07, 2008

CM: Part III Worship

I love worship! But when I use the word "worship" what that word means to you is more dependent on your experience with the word that on my understanding as the speaker unless I do something to change that.

For the authors of Children Matter "worship" is a verb. Ok. They also admit that sometimes it's a noun. They talk about both but they start with the premise that children can experience worship. Children are capable of worshiping God. They are capable of experiencing and interacting with God even before they can put it into words. [CM p215-216] Sounds simple and maybe you say, "of course!" But that simple idea is critical to the foundation for our thinking about children and worship. And when you think of all that "worship" means that understanding is profound.

It's profound that, as they say, the first mention of worship in scripture is in the story of Abraham's call to sacrifice his only son, God providing a substitute. Put yourself in Abraham's situation and think about worship in that context. [CM p. 216] Why? because worship is about sacrificing our children? Is it about God providing a substitute when He asks us to give Him our children? Does it have to do with Jesus or is there a whole lot more? I don't know. It's definately something to ponder with God.

The authors say, "Even though the Bible does not provide a concise definition, Scripture is full of examples of worship and the actions involved in it." [CM p. 217] They say that many of these are verbs (action words) that appear over and over in Psalms, examples in the tabernacle, in the temple, in Revelation.

The authors make the observation that even the youngest child can do many of the worship action words of scripture. Say that again. The authors make the observation that even the youngest child can do many of the worship action words of scripture. How wonderful is that! They share Biblical examples and present day examples. The questions they pose for us to ask about our corporate worship are wonderful!

They continue to look at how we do worship*: when children are present for the entire service, children present for part of the worship service, multi-cultural worship, a separate children's worship service, "intentionally Family-Oriented worship," intergenerational worship."And they include resources! They list "Essentials for Children at Worship" across the different approaches and finish with "strategies for implementing change"- a valuable tool for leaders.

I was very surprised to hear the authors say, "[m]any churches that keep children within the worship services are part of ... denominations in the liturgical tradition." [CM p 229] I guess I usually think of upbeat contemporary services as a more child-friendly place to keep children during worship so their comment is really interesting. They also mention that children often remain for the entire worship service in faith communities representing ethnic identities other than white American. [CM p. 230-31] I think that was mentioned in Children's Spirituality, too.

They mention Thomas Groome talking about the power of preaching that helps all generations discover their individual stories and the stories of their faith community within God's larger story as revealed in the scriptures past, present, and future . [CM p. 229] That kind of preaching is worth pondering.

They speak about "full silence" and "empty silence" saying, "In a full silence children are quiet because they have engaged or entered into a story with wonder; and empty silence is when children are told to be quiet or to stop talking." [CM p. 233] As a child, hah! even now my silence won't stay quiet for long. I will fill my head with other things and zone out of and into something else. And who will know?!

These are very random ideas that jumped out at me from a very rich discussion saying how we worship matters. Children matter. How we worship with them (or without them) matters.

Thank you Scottie, Beth, Catherine and Linda. Thank you for this book and for this chapter in particular. I could wait until I finish the book to say thanks but methinks thank yous are never really out of place.

Totally random aside: "how we do worship," "how do we worship." Do they mean the same thing? What is it that matters?

Sunday, January 06, 2008

Emerging Parents Pondering CM

The folks at Emerging Parents are tackling the topic of Children's Ministry.

Food for thought: Kara asks, ". . . what is it that I want my children to learn? . . . I realized that my list basically consisted of all the things that I'm trying to learn for myself, i.e. wisdom, character, integrity, awareness, stewardship, etc."

"Then I asked, how can we best teach them these things? I was suddenly struck by the realization that my children already possess many of the characteristics that I am trying to re-install in myself: curiosity, wonder, awareness, enthusiasm, love of life, compassion, sensitivity, gentleness, creativity, generosity, imagination, etc. Certainly these things take time to mature, but the seeds are already there and growing. . ."

Imagine teaching and learning that encourages those qualities...all of those qualities.

Saturday, January 05, 2008

Small church resource

Someone was once looking for small church resources. Here's one Discovery Kids. I don't know anything about it.

Between Part II and III

Before I start Part III of Children Matter you should know I rarely pay attention to the systematic thinking expressed in a book's Table of Contents. I should. It would make me a better writer.

Here is the Table of Contents from Children Matter [sometimes rephrased]. Using the Table of Contents as a guide may help you better use this book, this resource, if you're using it to rethink what you're doing:

Introduction: The Story of a Book [I think they've accomplished their goal of creating a resource that can be used by generations of children's ministers not only for the wisdom and insight they share but because they help us find the questions we need to keep asking and keep answering. In only about 350 pages!]

Imagine asking these same questions in 2050 ad or 3000 ad ... scary...

Part I Foundations Matter
(What foundations? What are we building on?)
  • The metaphors we use in ministry ie. "children are like..."
  • Children in the Bible
  • Our theology and children
  • A child's development
  • The historic roots of children's ministry

Part II Context and Content Matter
(What is context?)
  • Children in context
  • Children in the faith community
  • Children in family
  • Children and story (content matters)
  • Children and Curriculum
(notice there's more reference to context than to content.)

Part III How We Do It Matters
How we do
  • Worship
  • Learning and Teaching
  • Specialized Ministries
  • All Children Matter
  • Leadership [How we do it] Matters

How we do "all children matter" doesn't make sense right now but it will when I read it! It's probably the most important chapter!

I don't think I tagged the other CHMT posts "resources" but this book is a valuable resource. :-)

Thursday, January 03, 2008

CM: Curriculum

This is from Chapter 10 of Children Matter - a strong chapter about curriculum. They define curriculum as "the experiential big picture of what is involved in teaching and nurturing children," [CM p.192] "a course or journey to be traversed together..." (as a faith community) because "...every element in the life of a church educates in some way." [CM p. 191]

They talk about content, learner, environment, teacher/shepherd, aim and evaluation adding, "One major element of life-changing curriculum is missing from what we have discussed to this point. Only God can change lives, and our curriculum is ineffective unless God's Spirit is at work in and through us,our students, and all that we do...Jesus promised to send His Holy Spirit to be with us, so we do not work alone." [CM p. 198]

They include a valuable section comparing the strengths and weaknesses of prepared curriculum with curriculum designed within the local church. They also talk about combinations. They talk about "empowering teachers, shepherds, and leaders," "attention to the environment," accountability...

All in all they present a wonderful challenge to define and create ways to teach and nurture children that embody experiencing God's big picture. [ from CM p.192] They call us to create journeys that multi-generational faith communities can take together, working with leadership so that everyone is attentive to the elements in the life of the church that can teach us about God, how He loves us, how He interacts with us, how He interacts with others in this world no matter how old we are. [ from CM p. 191] Programs, activities, and worship can accomplish this through careful planning and design. Being attentive to what people of all ages are learning and how they're learning is challenging and important but it helps us plan and design. But I think it's more than that. It's not just what we teach but what people learn. I think the curriculum they're talking about is more than all of this: it's God teaching us - no matter how old we are.

Who will take the time? What congregations will step out of their comfort zone, out of the old ways, out of the old wine skins to explore the possibilities of becoming new wine in new wine skins for generations of God's children? Designing the curriculum that the authors are talking about requires a unique relationship between church leadership and those who are given to ministering to children. It means we need to learn to hear each other, set goals together, work together, design together, create together, pray and listen together. It means learning to see ways that God is already working in the lives of an entire congregation - all ages - both as individual groups and as we interact with one another. It includes what individuals in a faith community are learning, how we're learning, and more important how it affects our day to day life and living. It's not didactic, it's organic. It has everything to do with what it means to embrace Jesus' words: "learning to obey all that I commanded you..." representing Christ in every area of our lives. We're not an institution. We're not country clubs. We're the living Body of the Living God - the wisdom of God to the world. I think that's the curriculum they're talking about. That's the curriculum we're after. What does it look like? When it's all said and done, it should probably look like Jesus.

CM: Children and Story

Chapter 9 in Children Matter - a short but rich chapter.

Apparently the oldest written description of storytelling (Egypt 2000-1300 B.C.E.) involved the sons of a great pyramid builder. Whether these were grown sons or children I don't know. The Psalms (and our lives) are full of older generations telling stories to younger generations but it's interesting that this example isn't the older telling stories to the younger. It's the other way around.

Most of the focus on story-telling in Christian Education is adult to child. And the authors make some wonderful comments about the multi-generational appeal of great stories, the craftsmanship of story-telling, point of view, audience, holding to the detail of scripture, not watering God's stories down, recognizing that there are more stories in scripture than we tell but many are better delivered to teens and adults. Good stories allow us to participate in the story capturing our imagination. We're not merely spectators. Good stories teach without explanation or interpretation. They can even say different things to different people, different things to different ages, different things to people going through crisis.

Here's where my brain went. How often do we give children opportunity to tell stories? If we're in the middle of a lesson and we ask if there are any questions and we get children telling their long stories we tend to cut children off. But what if we find a time and place to let them tell their stories? It can be in a big group. It can be smaller groups. It can be personal stories, family stories. What if we let them retell their favorite Bible stories? Listen to children retell stories and you find out what jumped out at them. You can also catch misunderstandings. Maybe we're going for accuracy and "truth" but maybe we need to listen to find out what they heard or what the story is reaching for in the child - what the story uncovered."I don't remember that part in the Bible story. What made you think of that?"

Do you use real life photos from the lands the stories come from to introduce a story? A picture of the Nile and the long grasses to go with the story of Moses? A picture of the desert? A cup of sand? Do you turn the thermostat up high? Before you tell a story, imagine yourself in this place instead of where you live. What would be the same? What would be different?

Very young children can use a printed picture to tell a story. They can play the story with felt or 3 dimensional story figures. They can use puppets and a puppet theater. (Children have such wonderful imaginations they can probably tell a good story with fabric and sticks.) Older children can draw pictures and tell the story that goes with their picture. Pre-teens and teens can write stories from the point of view of a different character ( or an observer, an animal, a tree, a rock) in a Bible story. Older children who don't like to read or write can still tell their story or create props to tell their story. They can act their story out. Older students can recreate stories with skits and puppet shows. Different classes can perform their stories for each other or for parents and friends. You can keep story telling very simple or make it a big production.

If you have five different student versions of the Christmas story, ask them what was the same in all of the stories? Tell the story going around the circle and let each child add a part to the story.

How often do we leave time to ponder and respond to a story? [CM p. 188-189] The design of Young Children in Worship gives us some handles on this but in most classes we're more prone to rush on to the questions and discussion or the related activity. Sometimes kids are ready to move on. Sometimes, they need a few moments to ponder or to reorient themselves to the present.

The authors quote Edith Schaeffer, "A sermon is always improved with a story, but a story is never improved with a sermon." [CM p. 189] We're teachers! We're adults! We always have to comment. A child might not get it! But we can learn a lot from the things that children "get" if we take time to ask and listen without judging. Chances are, it isn't what we expect but that's ok. It gives us opportunity to learn something new or to adjust misunderstandings.

In one class I taught with preschoolers we hung the posters or the projects after each lesson - something to remind us of the story. We hung the images like a time line and each week we went back to the pictures from the weeks before to see what we remembered. Who was the story about? What happened in the story? What was the memory verse? Did anything happen at home or at school that reminded you of a Bible story? What happened? What did you do? This is more didactic than most of what's here but it's a good way to review and remember stories.

They quote Shaw [CM p. 177] saying, "What is learned in story is not so much information or knowledge in the usual sense but is far closer to wisdom, understanding, or lived truth..."

Wisdom is often the missing objective in our teaching and learning but one of the most important. It's neat to think of the simple act of storytelling as one of the most effective tools to teach wisdom - one of the hardest things to teach and measure - the one thing we'll spend our whole life learning.

Tuesday, January 01, 2008

CM: Children in the Family

Chapter 8: Lots of great insight, ideas and examples for families and for churches equipping and supporting families. Here are a couple of quotes that stood out for me:

-"Children are troubled by double standards and lose respect for parents who continue to demand of them what they are unwilling to do themselves. But if we listen to our children and take a look at ourselves through their eyes, they can help us grow and build greater consistency into our life. In some cases we need to conform to standards we set for our children, but in other situations we will realize that our demands on the children are unreasonable and we need to relax them." [CM p. 160]

Both as parents and teachers children (because they're always watching) hold us responsible for our choices, attitudes, and behaviors. It takes wisdom to know when we, ourselves, need to live up to the standards we set for kids and when we need to relax them for everyone. Sometimes we marvel at the ways they model us. Sometimes, we're appalled. We ask, "Why? What are we doing? What have I done to make them think _____[acting badly] is ok?"

Every grown up has to ask, "Is it more important that I hold myself and my children to standards even if those standards are always just out of reach or is it more important to hold standards that we can actually achieve adding more as we succeed?" Am I willing to relax my unreasonable expectations even when I seem to fall short in the face of a faith community that seems to have it all together?

You are who you are, not your neighbor yet God requires each of us to keep His word no matter who we are. There are social expectations in any group yet we're a group of individuals. We aren't all the same. Wisdom helps us sort through all the voices, demands, and expectations. It helps us focus and prioritize and set reasonable personal and family goals. Sometimes we need help to accomplish our goals. Sometimes we need someone to say, "Relax!" Ultimately it's what God thinks that matters. But how do we know? Did you ever hear one person say to another, "You may be frustrated about [this] but you really know how to [love your kids]. They seem to always know you love them."

Start with success and add challenges as appropriate. It takes some humility but it can be fun trying to master challenging tasks together. "Nobody wants to take out the garbage but it has to get done. Let's do it together. You get the little bags from the little cans. I'll get the big bags." You can also each pick something different that's hard for you, set goals and try to reach them side by side. Find ways to reward or celebrate your successes and your child's successes. Praise a child when you notice them doing something good, especially if it's unplanned.

-Here's another, " . . . for some family has become an idol, valued above everyone and everything else . . . Families need to worship and learn regularly with others to know that they belong to a large family of people who love and serve God." [CM p. 169] I think building trust, being willing to learn from and receive from others, being willing to give to others (not just stuff but who they are as a family and as individuals) helps families focus outside of themselves.

-Here's another, "When parents are unable to give children what they need, young ones can still find comfort and nurture in God's presence . . . don't assume that God is not there. Look for evidence of God's presence in the child's life, and find ways for the family of God to surround the child with love and support." [CM p. 159]

We can help children learn to see God working in their lives. We can help family members see God working in their lives and in the lives of others. Sometimes people need that kind of encouragement. It may be as simple as asking the question, "What do you see God doing?" or sharing ways that you see God present with them. It may be as simple as having someone to praise them for the things they do right. Encouragement goes a long way - in the family of God, in any family.

"I noticed that you shared your cookies with your little sister. That was a special thing to do." Next time you hand the older child a cookie, "If you give your sister a chocolate cookie we have to be ready to wipe the chocolate off her hands and face before she touches something. Here's one without chocolate. See if she'll take this one, instead."

Does God only focus on the things we do wrong? Does He encourage us? How does God encourage you? How does God encourage your children?