Sunday, May 31, 2009

John 16

Translating a little here: Look at John 16:1-4 You could talk about persecution and believers being kicked out of their churches for loving God, but the verse I find most interesting is verse 3 referring to those who would kick the disciples out of the synagogue: "They will do such things because they have not known the Father or me." Isn't that part of the teacher's task - To equip people to recognize "Father, Son, and Holy Spirit" according to the scriptures? (And to stand in awe of - or hit the floor face down in awe of- the mystery of all that we will never understand about God?)

There's a lot to see in verses 5-11 but one of the simpler elements is the fact that people grieved over losing someone -Jesus. But Jesus told them he had to go away so the Counselor can come and the Counselor has a different job to do. Not better. Different. The Spirit of God had a different role to play than Christ the Son. The Son had a different role to play than God the Father. One God - Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. There are times in our lives when we grieve over a loss but that person had a role to play in our life. If someone new wanders into that space, he or she will have a different job, play a different role, come at a different time, accomplish different things. Not to downplay what Jesus was saying about Himself and the Holy Spirit but lest we forget, Jesus did come as a man and the people around Him were experiencing very real emotions. They were losing a teacher and a friend. I'm not sure that the fact that He was God really sunk in until later. Liken it to the time when people come into your life and are big as God to you - idolatry, yes, which may be why the religious authorities protested - but Jesus actually was God - is God.

Here is an activity for kids from 16:13. Set up an activity where each child can only say what they hear someone tell them.

Or what if someone came from a very wealthy person and said, "everything my boss owns is yours?" Can you tie that into John 16? Nice potential for imaginary play here.

I was thinking that these aren't concepts for little people. These are concepts for older kids. We've talked about "concrete" over the last 4 years so I thought this passage was interesting. At the end of the chapter it says, "Though I have been speaking figuratively, a time is coming when I will no longer use this kind of language but will tell you plainly about my Father. . ." (vs 25-30 - passages to ponder) . From figurative to plain talk is the opposite of what we do with kids.

And there are some interesting grown-up to child elements here where Jesus is interacting with His followers:

(4)I've told you this, so that when the time comes you will remember that I warned you. I did not tell you this at first because I was with you.

(5) I'm going back to the person who sent me to you, but none of you asks me, 'Where are you going?' (6) You're sad about the things I'm telling you. (7) But I tell you the truth: It is for your good that I am going away. Unless I go away, the Counselor will not come to you; but if I go, I will send him to you. (8) When he comes, he will . . .[do the things Jesus says He will do]

(12) "I have lots more to say to you, more than you can bear now. (13) But when he. . . comes, he will guide you into all truth . . . little by little he will take from what is mine and make it known to you. . .

(16) "In a little while you won't see me anymore, and then after a little while you will . . ."

The disciples didn't understand. They said, "What does he mean? What is he saying?" Jesus was going to die. He knew he was going to die. He also knew that his dying wouldn't be the end. It would feel like that to the disciples but it wouldn't be the end. Do you know kids in that situation?

If you keep reading vs 17-22 do you hear the voice of a teacher comforting his students? Do you hear the voice of a grown-up speaking to children? Do you hear the voice of a shepherd speaking to his flock? There is so much in this chapter. Jesus says,"I'm leaving, but we will do everything in our power, (as in power of Father, Son, Holy Spirit, lol!) to make sure you're taken care of."

Random food for thought.

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

PLFC Colossians

Reviewing Chpt 13 from TCITB made me go back and read Colossians with kids in mind. Here's a little different take on this letter from Paul.

Paul was a teacher. You are a teacher. Imagine writing Paul's letter to your students.

From Col. 1:1-2 "Grace and peace to you, (my students)" or "My helper and I send you grace and peace from Father God - our father (my father, your father, our father)."

"Holy and faithful" Paul calls his students. "Brothers in Christ." Do you see your students that way?

from Col 1:3-8
"Dear students! We thank God for you! People tell us how much faith you have! People tell us about your love!" Do people tell us about the faith and love they see growing in our kids? Do we tell our students about the faith and love we see growing in them? Are we growing hope in them? How do you do that? I hope so.

from Col 1: 9-14
Paul's response to hearing all this about his students? "We have not stopped praying for you - that God is filling you up. That you know His will. We pray for you - for spiritual wisdom and understanding. We pray that you live a life worthy of the Lord. We pray that you please him in every way. We pray that good things grow out of every good deed you do. We pray that you keep growing to know God better. We pray that God keeps making you strong with all power the power you need according to his glorious might. We pray for you: for great endurance and patience. We joyfully give thanks to the Father for you! God has qualified you to share in the inheritance of the saints in the kingdom of light. He has rescued us from the rule of darkness. He has brought us into the kingdom of the Son he loves. Because of Jesus, He's bought us back and forgiven us." He's rescued us from a dark scary place and brought us into the place where His beloved son is boss. Rescues, buying back, forgiving, waiting patiently, light and dark activities would go with some of this. Fruit imagery. Sports imagery.

from Col 1:15-23 Jesus is the image (the picture?) of our invisible God. Jesus is the first-born. What does it mean to be the oldest? Jesus made everything. Everything was made for Him. Is that something selfish? In heaven. On earth. Visible. Invisible. Rulers. Authorities. Jesus came first. Jesus holds everything together. Jesus is the head of His Body. Jesus is the head of the church. Jesus is the boss. Father God was pleased to have the fullness of all that He is, all that God is, to live in Jesus. Jesus helps all who need to make peace with God to make peace with God - things on earth, things in heaven - through the blood He shed on the cross. Anything in there with kids? How about making peace? God is the boss but how does he rule - selfishly, bossing everyone around? He holds everything together. What does that mean? These are more for older kids.

[21-23] Once we were all God's enemies, in our our thoughts, the way we behaved, but Jesus helped us make peace with God. He's made us holy, without imperfections, without anyone blaming us for anything, if we keep believing and hoping. We have to stand on the hope Jesus gives us when we hear His Good News. Every creature on heaven and earth has heard His Good News. Paul, the teacher, has become a servant to that Good News.

from Col 1:24-29 Paul, the teacher, says to his students, I rejoice in what was suffered for you, [this part is harder to understand or maybe you're in a situation where you know exactly what this means: Paul says, I fill up in my flesh with what is still lacking in regard to Christ's afflictions, for the sake of his body, which is the church.] Paul is a servant - to the gospel? to the church? both? God commissioned this teacher Paul "to present to [his listeners] the word of God in its fullness— the mystery that has been kept hidden for ages and generations, but is now disclosed to the saints. God has chosen to make known among the Gentiles the glorious riches of this mystery, which is Christ in you, the hope of glory."

I was going to ask you what hope is - the hope we offer our kids - "Christ in you, the hope of glory." Paul keeps bringing us back to Jesus.

God revealed lots of things to the Jewish people (the people of the Old Testament) but He chose to reveal this mystery to people who weren't Jewish. The thing about a mystery is that you can't explain it. I can be a very patient person but for whatever reason, it is almost an impossible task for me to intentionally avoid explaining what I think I understand. You can tell, right? But there are mysteries that belong to God - not to us. Things that we can't explain.

"the glorious riches of this mystery. . . " A rich mystery! What makes you rich? Create a treasure chest (drawing, collage - your choice) Fill it with things that make you feel rich. Fill another chest where the only thing in it is "Christ in me, my hope of glory." A mystery that I can't explain. What would go into that treasure chest? Or put the material riches on a flap that you can pull up revealing something to represent the "Christ in me" words under it. Is this a lesson for children? I don't know. Are there ways for kids to ponder some of the things that Paul said in his letters? Probably.

from Col 1:28 "We proclaim him [We proclaim JESUS!], admonishing and teaching everyone with all wisdom, so that we may present everyone perfect in Christ. 29To this end I labor, struggling with all his energy, which so powerfully works in me." Gosh! The energy of Christ. Ponder that one!

Paul says, "We proclaim him..." Christ Jesus in all His fullness, visible image of our invisible God. As I say, Paul keeps pointing His listeners back to Jesus.

If you don't consider the children in your community (or the children present in the communities who heard Paul's letters) as among those God intended to do something with the content of Paul's letters then I guess you don't have to worry about any of this. Work that out with God when you see him.

Keep going with Colossians if you want. Try this with Ephesians and the other letters. I'm not trying to teach you something. I'm saying, take Paul's letters. He was a teacher, you are a teacher. Everything Paul intends for "all" his listeners was intended for kids too, if they were part of his listening audience. There are pieces here and there and concrete experiences here and there that you can probably use to create some "lesson activities" but I'm left believing that the heart of understanding Paul's letters for grown-up and child alike is in the doing and I think you can find lots to "do." Start with "one another"s. There's a list here somewhere if you do a [find] in this blog.

Imagine reading these letters to your students. What jumps out at you? What will jump out at them? What can they do with what they hear? You might say that most of the thinking part of this will soar over and through a child's head. Then it is for us to model and to teach children how to live all that Paul gave us. All of the doing is for us, as adults. We can include our children. Whatever we do, they're watching.

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

TCITB: Chapter 13 "A Place of Belonging..."

from TCITB

Chapter 13: "A Place of Belonging: Perspectives on Children from Colossians and Ephesians"

by Margaret Y. MacDonald

Although scholars debate whether or not these letters were written by Paul, Ms MacDonald believes they were. She tells us "the household code" appears for the first time in the NT in these books. [TCITC p 278] She says, "At its most basic, the code comprises a series of commands aimed at different relationship pairs. . . with the intent of ensuring correct behavior and attitudes in all roles..." [TCITB p 279] Drawing on recent research about the Roman family she focuses on the audience for these letters, their understanding of "family" as members of Roman society and how this "household code"was the same and different.

She draws our attention to the fact that in Colossians and Ephesians "references to childhood move from the metaphorical and the indirect . . . to the concrete and direct." She believes that if children were specifically addressed in these letters ("the household codes address children as one of the groupings requiring exhortation for life in the Lord") this suggests that they are present in the assembly when letter was read. She says, "The references are short. . .But their significance far outweighs their length. She says it shows how important the parent child relationship was to the early church. [TCITB p 279]

The author points to Ephesians 6:4 as "the earliest expression in the New Testament of the education of children as a community priority." [TCITB p. 280] She tells us Aristotle's model and other influential cultural models for family at the time (including the OT) would give the models we find in the New Testament with their references to obedience and honor a familiar ring. [TCITB p 281-3] In some ancient cultural models parents stood only a little lower than God/gods. In others, parents stood alongside their children under God/gods. [TCITB 184-5]

Ms. MacDonald examines the "apologetic intent" of these household codes and their references to children. [TCITB p 285-6]

She puts Col 3:20-21 and Eph. 6:1-4 in the context of Josephus, Roman households, Jewish households, and the Law. [TCITB p 286-8] She notes the importance of "obedience in everything" for children in both Jewish and Roman families. Paul addresses comments directly to fathers. Josephus emphasizes the importance of educating children in the law but describes this ". . . concept of religious instruction being absorbed by young children (but here under the influence of mothers and grandmothers) . . . referenced in 2 Tim 1:5 ". She says the passage in Eph. 6:4 can refer not only to the upbringing of a child but also to the training or orientation of an adult-suggesting the life-course process that is also inherent in the teaching of the Law." [TCITB p 288] She sites other examples.

She discusses writings from the time the epistles were written that emphasize Jewish and early Christian care and respect for infants, widows, orphans, the unborn, and slaves. She discusses this in detail. [TCITB p. 289-291] She also poses the case against Christians of the time, claiming that they would draw children away from their families into prayer vigils and were accused of sexual improprieties during festivals. [TCITB p. 291-292]

Ms. MacDonald discusses family ideals, paternal authority, and Christian parenting practices. She notes the diverse and often complicated relationships that Paul calls to obedience noting that the author of these letters doesn't specify whether or not listeners are believers, unbelievers or some combination. (a believing slave father with an unbelieving master, an unbelieving husband or father, a slave father in another household are examples that she gives.) She notes the warning against extensive severity in verses like Col 3:21 and the need to monitor children. The penalties for rebellion in most of these cultures was severe.I think this means that knowing the penalty for children caught rebelling against their families would require the church to understand that and carefully monitor the children from families of non-believers that they cared for for their protection. She notes that the scriptures don't seem focus on severity of discipline the way other writings of the time do. [TCITB p 293-4]

". . . the emphasis on the authority of the paterfamilias that runs through the household code, spanning his role as father, master,and teacher, needs to be considered in relation to the real influence of mothers . . . Research on the Roman family has revealed that even very restrictive legal pronouncements upholding the formal authority of the fathers in the house need to be understood in conjunction with a multitude of conventions lacking formal authority but nevertheless constituting a coordinating sphere of maternal influence. . . those who heard the household codes of Colossians and Ephesians probably assumed that mothers were being granted informal authority in managing household affairs." She says, mothers "mapped out futures for their children, including education and marriage." [TCITB p 295] Mothers were known to take the role of advocate and protector in the courts. [TCITB p 296]

Paternal authority was to be both "recognized and tempered" The qualifications for church leadership required a man to "know how to manage his own household (NRSV)". [TCITB p 296]. MacDonald contrasts this with the "informal authority" given to women. "The Pastorals restrict women's formal leadership opportunities; but, at the same time, instructions such as we find in 1 Timothy 5:14, that young widows should marry, bear children, and manage their households, would have created opportunities for women to exercise influence in a house-based movement." Caring for children was part of this. [TCITB p 297]

Older women were to teach younger women. She says, "Although different roles for men and women are being articulated, the choice of terminology- the use of the recognized word for teacher. . .- implies that women's coordinating role is highly valued by the author . . . this recognition of women's authority should not be underestimated. " [TCITB p. 298] Women played a role instructing young women and also teaching boys. [TCITB p 298]

She talks about children in neighborhoods and the wide range of people who would be part of a child's daily life and the fluid physical space of neighborhoods. [TCITB p 298] She talks about affects of the early house churches and hospitality and learning experiences around the dinner table. Looking at a house-based church, children would be there.[TCITB p 300-1] She asks many questions related to slave and free, mingling and care. [TCITB p 298-303]

She reminds us that household codes were the ideal and believes relationships and groups at the time to be much less rigid than we might suppose. She also reminds us that children had many grown-ups they were required to listen to: parents, grand-parents, aunts, uncles, slaves, tutors, masters. She reminds us that some of these people would be believers, some not. But these letters offered listeners (even children both slave and free-born) a place to belong. [TCITB p 303-4]

Alot of really interesting cultural perspective. Lots to think about regarding family and women and authority. Lots to think about regarding the role of house-based churches.

Monday, May 25, 2009

PLFC Philippians 4

Philippians 4: I love you! I miss you! You are my joy. You are my crown. Don't ever forget that. Act like it! "That is how you should stand firm in the Lord, dear friends!" Phil 4:1 (NIV)

Euodia, Syntyche, my faithful loyal yoke-fellows, I plead with you to agree with each other in the Lord! Paul says. ". . .help these women who have contended at my side in the cause of the gospel, along with Clement and the rest of my fellow workers, whose names are in the book of life." Agree & help!

Here's another favorite: Phil 4:4-7 "Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice! [say it again and again and again: Be joyful again!] Let your gentleness be evident to all. [Let people see you gentleness] The Lord is near. Do not be anxious about anything, [I hear people talk about anxiety ALL the time] but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. [my kids and I used to do "thank you-prayers". Write down your requests. Pay attention when God answers and when he doesn't. ] And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. [That's a promise!]" That peace of God isn't cognitive. It transcends what you can understand. Joy, peace, gentleness, anxiety - all potential topics.

God listens to it all my thoughts but I can choose what to think about, what I dwell on. Is it true? Is it noble? Is it right? Is it pure? Is it lovely? Is it admirable? Is it excellent? Is it praiseworthy? "—think about such things."A filter for my thoughts "Whatever is . . . —if anything is . . . —think about such things."(Phil. 4: 8-9 NIV)

Paul said, "Whatever you have learned or received or heard from me, or seen in me—put it into practice. And the God of peace will be with you." [action - promise] Pick your favorite grown-up or teen. Pick one thing they do that you want to copy. Pick one way that they are like Jesus. Pick one thing that you remember someone saying that you can do that will make you more like Jesus.

So take vs 10-23. Imagine writing this letter to your students. Imagine receiving this letter from a godly person you respect. How would you translate this for your kids? What will you focus on? What can you do together to help kids understand what Paul is saying and become active participants? Concern? Contentment? Giving/receiving? What is the credit we get in our account when we give? What is that fragrant offering?

PLFC Philippians 3

Philippians 3: Confidence in the flesh? Don't know how to translate this for younger children. Kids need to grow confidence. Maybe for older ones. Maybe for the over-confident. Again, our example will probably speak louder than any lesson.

Paul could have put his confidence in his circumcision, being an Israelite, being of the tribe of Benjamin, being a Hebrew of Hebrews; being a keeper of the law - a Pharisee, being zealous- persecuting the church, being faultless about keeping the rules but that's not what he stood on. Those things didn't matter to Paul anymore. Jesus mattered to him. Are there things in our lives like that? Are there things in the lives of our children like that?

Translate that for children - think confidence - think identity - think honor. These are all things we want to grow in children.

What was Paul saying? "none of this matters to me - knowing Jesus is more important to me than all of this . . . Everything that gives me status is like cow manure or dog poop compared to knowing Jesus . . ." (My understanding is that the translation of that word rubbish is closer to the word "dung" than it is to "trash". "I will wipe it off my shoes and do whatever I need to do with my strengths or without them in order to know Jesus better.")

"I'm the best singer in my class."

"Thank Jesus for that. What have you learned about Jesus being the best singer in the class?"

In my church as a child, my mother was the organist. My grandmother taught Sunday school. My dad and my grandfather were elders. My family was very involved and I had the run of the place. :) I had a reputation that wasn't just mine, it was my family's reputation. Maybe you know children like this? Maybe your church has a reputation. Maybe being part of your church gives you a reputation or a sense of identity and honor. Paul is saying, "Compared to knowing Jesus, it's all rubbish."

Not sure this is something you can present a lesson on and still get the full impact. Jesus meant more to Paul than all of his credentials. Paul was willing to throw it all away to know Jesus better, yet it also openned doors for him and he was able to use skills he had.

Paul didn't feel like he'd attained to the reputation we give him. He saw himself as a runner running a race for a prize - not a sprint - more like cross-country - a lifelong cross country race...and he would keep running towards that finish line and he'd keep running to win but he hadn't gotten there yet. He hadn't crossed the finish line. He hadn't won the prize. The prize was to know God. Jesus said back in John that eternal life was to know Him.

Philippians 3:12-14 (NIV). This is one of my most favorite verses: "Not that I have already obtained all this, or have already been made perfect, but I press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me. Brothers, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus."

You can encourage kids to let go of things (or a past) that keep them from their quest to know God better, things that keep them from pressing forward to take hold of "that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me..." I am learning things about God training dogs that I never learned teaching Sunday school. I learned things about God teaching Sunday School that I hadn't learned as a camp counselor. Different seasons of learning, different places to give.

And if the Philippians thought differently? Paul didn't lecture. He didn't try to persuade them that he was right. He was willing to let it go and let God show them what they needed to understand. Interesting?

"Join with others in following my example..." Paul said. Paul was an example to follow but there were others (even in Paul's time) who were living a pattern like Paul's for the Philippians to follow. Ask a child, "who do you want to be like when you grow up? Why? Who reminds you most of Jesus? What do they do that reminds you of Jesus?"

Those who live as enemies of the cross of Christ, who followed their stomach, who gloried in their shame, who set their minds on earthly things grieved Paul to the point of tears. They made him cry. Do they make me cry? Do they make you cry? Who are these people? Are you sure?

Paul reminds the Philippians: You are citizens of heaven. What does that mean? What does that look like? Sound like? Smell like? Taste like? Feel like? Jesus came from there. Paul reminds the Philippians and us to wait for Him. He reminds us that Jesus has the power "to bring everything under his control . . ." and that He ". . . will transform our lowly bodies so that they will be like his glorious body." Sometimes kids need to hear that, too.

Friday, May 22, 2009

PLFC Philippians 2

I suppose you could look at Paul's letters as character building.

Philippians 2:1-4

If I read this letter to kids (probably older kids) : If you've found encouragement, tenderness, caring knowing Jesus as your best friend, if you know the comfort of His love and what it is to hang out with His Holy Spirit, fill my heart with joy. Find things to agree on and love. Share a common purpose, a common spirit. Don't just look out for your own desires and your own needs. Don't just look out for yourself. Look out for the other guy. In my house we used to say, "Let the other guy go first."

Let your kids practice being someone's servant. Then make sure they switch roles. The kids will have a better understanding of that word.

Every time someone says, "Jesus" have everyone in the room hit the floor on their knees.

What if everyone said to one another, "Jesus Christ is Lord!" Take it outside the classroom.

We already talked about shining stars.

Timothy was a young man but Paul says of him, ". . . I have no one else like him, who takes a genuine interest in your welfare. 21For everyone looks out for his own interests, not those of Jesus Christ. But you know that Timothy has proved himself, because as a son with his father he has served with me in the work of the gospel." (vs 21-22 NIV) What an honor! How do you grow that - a genuine interest in other people? That's the quality Timothy had that so impressed Paul. "I have no one else like him."

There is so much relational stuff in vs 25-30. The Philippians sent someone to Paul to help take care of his needs - a brother, a worker, a messenger. Send your kids with messages as often as you can. And they will learn what that word means. Paul says this brother/worker/messenger was upset because he didn't want the people who sent him to know how sick he was but the messenger almost died. God had mercy not only on the messenger who almost died to make him better, but God had mercy on Paul who loved him so Paul didn't have the sadness of losing him. And Paul says, "I so much want to send him to you so when you see him you can be glad and so I don't have to be anxious. Welcome him. Honor people like him 'because he almost died for the work of Christ, risking his life to make up for the help you could not give me.' " Whoa! I tend to skip over those places in Paul's letters. Do you? There's alot of emotional connection in that very short passage. Who would have known?

Thursday, May 21, 2009

kind words

There is a forward wandering the net called "too busy for a friend". I'm not real big on FW's but I have a friend who sends them. The gist of this particular one is that a teacher asked the kids in her class to make a list of all the other students in the room, leave a space under each name and in that space write the nicest thing you can say about each one.

She collected all the papers and wrote up a sheet about each child listing all the nice things the other kids said about them.

The story goes on. One student went off to war. The boy was killed. At the funeral the parents told the teacher (a math teacher) that piece of notebook paper full of nice things was still in his wallet when he died all torn and worn. As his friends overheard the conversation each of the other students said they too had kept their notebook page some place special....and the story goes on... but what a special thing for a child or young adult to take away from school or Sunday school or any long term group experience like that.

I hope I say all the kind and encouraging things I can say to someone before the funeral.

Tuesday, May 19, 2009


I think that in the scriptures, the word they use for respect is "honor" but we don't use the word "honor" much. You can do a word study for "honor" and add a whole different dimension to this post but for now, let's use the word "respect".

What does respect mean? What does it mean to a child?

How do you grow respect in a child
for the world God made?
for others?
for him or herself?

Try reversing the order.

Actually it's more of a circle or sphere or a web of interdependence than it is a line . . .

What does it look like when the people (even children) in a group respect each other? What does it look like if they don't?

What does it look like when different age groups respect each other? When they don't?

What does it feel like when you know someone respects you? What did that person do?

What does it feel like to respect another person? How do you show them that you respect them?

How do you show respect towards other living things? Plants? Animals? What does it look like?

How do you practice respect? When you're practicing, what do you do over and over?

Can you translate this for children? Can you translate this into actions and responses that a child can do?

There's a time and a place for "No". But, for the times when kids need you to reinforce what they should be doing instead of what they shouldn't be doing. . . consider, "How do I teach respect?"

Understanding that honor and respect are the natural fiber of Biblical culture, what stories from scripture would you pick to teach kids about respect?

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Paul's Letters for children: Philippians 1

Paul's letters for children ... an interesting concept to play with.

Acts was written by Luke. Acts, like Luke, is full of stories. The Epistles are letters - letters written from a man of God to groups of people trying to walk right with God - not just as individuals but as communities. The Law in the Old Testament was written to a community of people trying to walk right with God. Jesus came into the community of God's people (and into the world) showing us how to walk right with God.

So...Paul's letters for children - a challenging concept - letters written to communities including children about walking right with God. People watched Jesus do it somehow grounded in the Law that God gave his people centuries before and rooted in the person of God - Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.

When I was working on including kids in worship I saw my task as translation. How do we translate this (whatever was happening in worship) into something meaningful to children as individuals and as a group? Sitting in leadership meetings my primary role, as I saw it, was to process our discussions and ideas for adults and ask, how do we make that meaningful for children? How do we create layers so the story, the activity, the song, the message all have meaning and how do we accomodate different ages?

That's the task. I'm not a student of Greek or Hebrew but let's take a passage and play with it.

Phillippians 1:1-11 is a prayer and a blessing. When you're alone praying for your classes read it out loud to the Lord and imagine your class being the recipients of that blessing. Read it to an older class in person, if you want. Remember some of the posts from TCITB and those inclusive phrases like "all" - meaning this doesn't just apply to grown-ups, it applies to everyone?

1:12-30 Paul is consumed by his love for Christ and the Gospel even though he suffers for it. He sees this suffering as something that is advancing the Gospel. He is consumed by His love for Christ. He is suffering but people are praying for him.

Imagine you are a Sunday school teacher writing this letter to your Sunday school class. Imagine growing up children who will become adult believers like Paul.

Whatever happens, Christ being preached in such a way that Paul is not ashamed before God or man is important. Paul wanted the time he spent with the Philippians to bring them not only great progress but great joy in Christ. Joy was important. Unity (being one) was important. Not being afraid was important.

Take a month or a season and focus on ways you can help the kids in your classes discover joy, or unity, or the ability to love Jesus and His Good News without fear or shame. Pick one. How do you bring joy to the children in your life? How can you help kids process times of suffering and find joy? How do I love Jesus and His Word without being afraid or ashamed? What are you afraid of? What are you ashamed of? When we disagree, what can we agree on?

I'll keep going but at this point, how we live these things before children is somewhere at the heart of children learning the things that Paul writes about in his letters and I'm not just talking cognitive but multi-dimensional whole person learning. As Paul was to the churches, we are living letters to one another, to the world, to children. Our hope is that as children grow they will become living letters too. We will spend a lifetime sifting our thoughts, attitudes and behavior through Paul's letters to see what passes and what doesn't. And we'll keep making adjustments no matter how old or how young we are.

Monday, May 11, 2009

activities for John 15: vines and other tangled thoughts 2

After you've done the sensory when kids are young, here are some thinking activities for older kids...

-do you know what role grapes and wine played in Biblical culture?

How 'bout verse 12. Who is the human person who has loved you best? Pick one thing they did or said that made you feel loved and do it for someone else.

Explore the difference between friend and servant.

What kinds of simple activities can you create to explore someone choosing you as opposed to you choosing them? Explore someone sending you as opposed to you sending them. What's the difference between a parent or teacher or coach choosing you and you choosing them? The point isn't to have answers but to explore answers. The point is to explore the imagery of the text.

Explore hate. Did anyone ever hate you because you did something good or because you did the right thing? Did you ever have someone treat you badly because they didn't like your friend or your brother or your cousin or your parent? Did you ever hate someone because you hated their friend or relative? Did anyone ever dislike you "for no reason"?

How about verse 22. "If I had not come and spoken to them, they would not be guilty of sin. Now, however, they have no excuse for their sin." Does this mean my actions aren't wrong until someone says so? Or it's not wrong until God says it's wrong? And how do you feel when someone comes along and tells you you're doing it all wrong? Is that what this passage is about or is there more here?

Here's another picture from that chapter: Here's the spirit of God - most trustworthy of all your buddies saying, "Dad and I want you to know that this Jesus guy isn't lying to you. This Jesus guy is ok. Listen to Him. He's telling you the truth..." Jesus said this but He also said that the people who spent time with Him would be able to say this too.

Is there a tie-in between vines and all the other things Jesus was talking about here? That's not a question for kids. That's a question for you!

Sunday, May 10, 2009

activities for John 15: vines and other tangled thoughts 1

You may find more thoughts about vines or John 15 somewhere in this blog over the past 4 years. Vines are alive.

Consider some non-artsy-craftsy activities. Doing!

-a family field trip to your local vineyard. You might even find someone there who goes to church and has thoughts about the Vine and it's branches from a vintager's perspective. See if they'll let you come in winter, spring, summer, and harvest time. Watch the plants and activities at the vineyard change.

-use wild grapes in someone's woods or unkept garden. Consider a visit so you can see, touch and smell them.

-grapes: see, touch, smell, eat! There are many varieties and many products including stuffed grape leaves.

- any garden vine (to notice the little tendrils that climb and hold on)

-take cameras, draw pictures, paint pictures, or write about the experience

- google nature crafts for vines or leaves (instead of Bible crafts for John 15). Some craft stores have artificial vines or dried vines for crafts.

The value of any of these outdoor (plant touching, smelling) activities and using your senses is the opportunity to grow a personal link to God's creation - learning through taste, sight, sound, smell, touch. Yes God is an invisible God but if I understand the scriptures correctly, His invisible attributes are accessible to us through what He's made. You don't really know what a vine tells you about God if you've never seen or touched or smelled a vine. It's just head knowledge. Head knowledge and drawing conclusions may be higher order thinking but not sure how real it is if you've never held a pile of dirt in your hands or interacted with a plant. Knowing everything you can about vines because you read books isn't like spending a lifetime tending and growing grape vines. It's not the same. It's not the same "knowing".

-consider a cooking activity. Consider making grape juice, lol!! Do you know someone who makes home made wine?

If you have no grapes or grape vines you might be able to track down a gardener or plant person to talk about vines. Ask them to bring samples!

If worse comes to worst and you have to revert to in-class lecture format

-a library book with big colored pictures of vine-tending. You would have to read through ahead of time and prepare a simple presentation to go with the most meaningful, descriptive pictures.

-Photos of grape vines at different stages of growth

-a short video about vine tending for older kids. There may even be a decent book out there like A Shepherd Looks at the 23rd Psalm. A Vine dresser looks at John 15?

Thursday, May 07, 2009

shining like stars

Do everything without complaining or arguing, so that you may become blameless and pure, children of God without fault in a crooked and depraved generation, in which you shine like stars in the universe. Philippians 2:14-15 (NIV)

Here is a very simple activity for these verses. Not a craft, exactly.

Put a dark background (like a dark sky) on the wall, bulletin board or white board. Let each of the kids make a big star with their name and or picture on it. Make the stars out of construction paper with glitter or a shiny stiff paper or foil. Velcro or magnetize the back of each star (or use a felt back and felt stars) so the star can be put on the board and taken off the board repeatedly. When the stars are finished they all go up on the board. When a child whines or complains the star comes down. When the fallen star does a task without whining or complaining the star goes back up. You don't even have to talk about it.

There's probably a way to go more hi tech if you have the skills. Cut the stars out of dark paper hang it on frame. Put a light source behind it. Use dark paper pieces to cover the holes to block the light instead of taking the stars down. The advantage of this version is that it shows how more stars mean more light in a dark sky.

Whichever form you use keep the board up and use it for a number of weeks 'til the kids stop thinking about it. Then, if you really want to make your point pick one activity you know your kids are going to love and one activity that you know they're going to hate and see what happens to the star wall but (as teacher) don't say anything! Tailor it for your age group so you set them up to succeed and understand, not to fail and lose interest. Timing is everything.

Play with it. See where it takes you.

Monday, May 04, 2009

TCITB: Chpt 12 "Like a Child"

from TCITB

Chapter 12 "Like a Child: Paul's Rhetorical Uses of Childhood"

by Reidar Aasgaard

This is just a glimpse of the topics that Mr. Aasgaard touches in his chapter. He goes into more detailed discussion than what's here. There are so many trails to follow in these chapters. So much more to think about. And then the application - what does this mean for us?

He begins his article by saying, "The apostle Paul very rarely mentions real, living children as is clearly shown in this volume's [TCITB] article by Beverly R. Gaventa. Still, children turn up on virtually every leaf of his letters especially in the shape of metaphors drawn from the world of childhood and parent/child relations." [TCITB p 249]

He notes Paul's use of complex "kinship language" and childhood language all through his writing [TCITB p. 249] but notes that scholars have focused more on "parent" language than on "the study of the place of children in Paul's thinking." He notes "apparent contradictions in Paul's use of childhood imagery" that have yet to be fully explored. [TCITB p. 250]

The author's discussion of Paul's references to kinship, succession and property transfer [TCITB p. 253-256] made me realize that I never fully grasped or appreciated Paul's multi-faceted brilliance.

Mr. Aasgaard makes interesting observations about 1 Corinthians 7:14 - a passage about believing and unbelieving spouses and their children. The author comments not only on what Paul says, but also what he doesn't say about children in the context of the passage. [TCITB p 256]

When Paul refers to himself as a fetus and to his untimely birth, Mr. Aasgaard notes, Paul compared himself to one of the most vulnerable and least respected members of society. [TCITB p. 258-9] The author explores Paul's use of "orphaned" not only from the perspective of an orphaned child but from that of an adult left childless. He looks at emotional implications tied to Paul's metaphorical perspectives. [TCITB p. 259-60]

Paul refers to immaturity, maturity, and potential in 1 Corinthians 13 . [TCITB p. 261] The author says that Paul's seeing children as yet imperfect and unformed (not miniature adults) and his seeing children as immature and in need of formation are consistent with his time. He reminds us that "[T]he standard [for formation] of the ideal human being . . . was the (male) adult." At the same time, Paul seems to have more respect for a child's capabilities than other writer/thinkers of his time. [TCITB p. 260]

His discussion of I Thess. 2:7 is thought-provoking. Paul likens himself to a nurse. [TCITB p. 263] If all the seeming contradictions in Paul's letters are equally true, the author's observations lead to some rather profound implications for leadership. [TCITB p. 263-265]

The author wonders if Paul's seeming lack of attention to obedience is because obedience was already a societal expectation in Paul's culture [TCITB p. 265] - less so in our own.

Aasgaard notes that Paul views childhood as a life stage characterized by an innocence and purity that doesn't exist during other life stages. (The author sites Philippians 2:14-15) Apparently Paul's contemporaries believed that childhood purity made a child more apt to be used for divine purposes by the gods. [TCITB p. 265-6]

Really interesting section on formation. As mentioned before, Mr. Aasgaard tells us that in ancient thinking children were in need of formation in order to become adults. [TCITB p. 266] He suggests that perhaps Paul's referring to the adult Corinthians as babies was more potent for those who heard the original message than it is to us reading it today. He talks about training agents and tools: from parental models to slaves teaching the very young to advanced levels of training requiring "soul guardians". The task of "soul guardian" was "the task of the educated man, in particular the philosopher."[TCITB p. 267] Aasgaard reminds us that Paul's model adult male was Christ. [TCITB p. 270] What would it look like to train children to model Christ, the man? How do the Greco-Roman teaching/learning/formation model differ from the Hebrew?

He talks about belonging (family, faith, community) . Regarding children in community he says "...issues on the place of children within the communities are almost untouched by Paul. Why this is so we can only guess." He shares some thoughts about this. [TCITB p. 271]

Summing up Paul's attitudes and strategies regarding children Mr. Aasgaard notes 1) "the omnipresence of childhood language: its use is conspicuous, in both frequency and variety" - which, the author says, means that children must play a significant role in Paul's thinking. [TCITB p. 271]

2) The incongruity - Aasgaard notes that for the frequency of Paul's use of childhood language "it is striking that he speaks so little of real children, concerning their place both in the family and in church . . . " He adds "There is also little in the letters to suggest that he has an interest in changing their living conditions or to influence people's notions and evaluation of them." [TCITB p. 271-272]

3) Paul's "theological use of childhood language in many respects, conforms to contemporary ideas about children". The author sees the points at which Paul holds to conventional thinking and the points at which his thoughts diverge, both as significant and elaborates on this. [TCITB p272-273]

4) Paul uses these metaphors "to regulate the relations between himself and his co-Christians. . . he adapts the . . . language to the situation of each letter and to his relations to his addressees. " [TCITC p. 273] The author's exploration of Paul as father is quite interesting. Traditionally we have focused more on Paul's harsh patriarchal authoritarian tendencies and failed to notice the ways Paul is ". . . concerned with his children and attentive to their abilities and needs: he communicates with them according to their level...acts lovingly...strives to increase their inheritance...and exhorts them in a benevolent way, as a firm, yet loving father..." The author also notes passages where Paul places himself in maternal roles using maternal imagery - not the way most of us see Paul. [TCITB p 273]

5) The author says that when Paul refers to himself as a child and to "childhood as a phase of life" there is tension between what Paul is saying and common thinking. [TCITB p 274 - 276] The author believes that when Paul willingly identifies "with beings at the rim of the human world - one untimely born, a baby, an orphan - he presses the matter far indeed. Thus what can be seen as rhetorical cleverness may just as likely be interpreted as the opposite, namely, as Paul here employing metaphors that in fact are not meant to enhance his authority but to make him vulnerable and left to the mercy of his addressees." Paul could have used other metaphors that would have fostered greater respect from his listeners but he didn't. Referring to himself this way, Aasgaard says, was "fundmentally daring." [TCITB p. 276]

As Aasgaard concludes this chapter it's clear that we not only have much to learn from Paul's thinking about children, but we have much to learn about Paul. [TCITB p. 277]


Had an interesting search come through - "preschooler who doesn't believe God is real."

When I write and think about kids I assume preschoolers have a huge capacity for imagining and grasping what they can't necessarily see. (Ironically, at the same time they need lots of concrete sensory learning experiences.) I assume that children under the age of 8 or so are still capable (and willing) to grasp the invisible. It's an assumption. This assumption is based on my reading about child development, personal experience and personal observation but it's still an assumption. I don't think of 3-4 year olds as skeptics standing with their arms crossed saying, "Prove it to me!" Imagine a whole classroom of 4 year-olds staring at you saying, "I don't believe you. Prove it!"

I'm guessing (hoping) that you have different material to work with in a preschooler than you would facing an adult in the same situation.

But if you convince him, how do you send him back into a family who taught him to think that way? What kind of conflicts do you create? What kind of church to child, family to child, and church to family relationship do you grow? That would take lots of prayer and a lot of God's wisdom.

But play with me a little. How many things are real that you can't see? Wind. Cold. Hot. Fear. Humidity. Atoms. Oxygen. We see the effects, how they behave, what they do. We feel the effects. Sometimes we hear or smell or taste the effects. But otherwise we'd call them invisible.

What is invisble? The things you can still experience if you close your eyes? What if you close your ears so you can't hear, close your nose so you can't smell, close your mouth so you can't taste, and put your hands in your pockets or cover yourself with a blanket so you can't touch? What would you still experience in the world around you? What would your world be like? What would be real? How about the world inside you? Is the world inside you invisible?

I was going to go to the wind analogy we like to use for an invisible God and seeing the effects of what we can't see. Jesus uses it in John 3:8. The interesting thing is that He wasn't actually talking about God and His Holy Spirit. Jesus was talking about "everyone who is born of the spirit." (Finding something unexpected when I'm looking for something else...but think about that picture of a believer!)

We can ponder at length how family and experience affect what a child believes. But I'd be interested to know if people working with young children are seeing more skepticism, more cynicism at a younger age. Would you coach a preschooler from unbelief to belief differently from someone older? And what about his choosing to believe in the context of his family? What do you think?