Saturday, October 30, 2010

Free-Range Kids. Interesting! Really really interesting.
Here is an interesting Canadian Survey published in April 2009....actually, I guess it's a book check out Kids These Days. My respect for statistics and science is limited but it's worth a look.
Some of you may blast me for this link's association with the Mormon Church but this is a link for LikentheBible Productions. I'm not opposed to an occassional Bible story in the form of accurate, age appropriate, G rated, multi-media, family entertainment. Are you?

You always have to preview something before you present it to an audience. I'm guessing that if you dig hard enough you'll find something wrong with everything. Know where you draw your lines. Know where your adult audience draws their lines. Know where they draw the line for their kids.

Ask open-ended questions so you can find out what your kids took away with them from the presentation. Whatever resources you use, consider it food for conversation and a spring board to shape young thoughts and feelings and faith. Age appropriately, of course.

Hey, the Israelites left Egypt with their spoils . . . and someone will say, "And look what happened to them..." Ok...just something to think about. Go back and see if God told them to.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

I'm not a big fan of Halloween but one of our city schools is doing something pretty cool for Halloween to raise money for their drama dept. They've been chosen to perform in Edinburgh.

It's for young kids. The high school students are going to dress up like different storybook/fairy tale characters and the families will go from room to room trick or treating. They have a costume parade, face painting, pumpkin decorating and I guess they have a spooky house room, too. Admission is $5/child, no cost to accompanying adults. Includes candy & all activities.

So...What if? ...What if you think of a worthy cause that families would want to support and do Bible story people (or you could do any storybook characters you want) and as they did in Houston, a fear conquoring as opposed to a fear evoking haunted house (I linked to it somewhere, probably October, many years back). As I say, I'm not a big fan, but it did get me thinking. If it's a way to love on people and reach out to your neighbors, consider it.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

A Lending Library

There are timeless books that people like to buy and use over and over. There are other books that are useful at a given period in a person's life or for a specific task and then end up in a garage sale.There are books you can find in the public library, and other books you can't.

If you don't already have one, consider creating a lending library at your church for books that kids (or adults) won't find in their public library, especially books that are age specific and discarded when a child outgrows them. (Bible story board books and very short easy reader Bible stories.) If you buy them new you're feeding the author and illustrator who created them. That's a good thing. If you recycle them (collect books from families who no longer want them) it's good stewardship and the project becomes very affordable and benefits many. Also a good thing.

Examples: Books with Bible stories or Christian themes or world view. Especially books that are destined to go out of print or books that kids won't find in their school or public library. Board books, picture books, pop-up books, seasonal books, emerging or early readers - particularly the very short, very easy Bible story books that parents don't buy because kids may read them 3-4 times and they move on to harder books. Arch books are nice by they are too hard for beginning readers. Fiction for all ages. Bible, church history and traditions, Christian heroes. History through the eyes of praying people who were there. Leveled readers that might be used in a Christian school. Books that people (particularly children) won't find in public school or public libraries that will reinforce or kindle a love for learning and for scripture and for God.  Faith-inspiring books. Hi-Low books and graphic novels (comic book format)  for older reluctant readers (particularly boys).Stay away from the boring, colorless books for boys and your youngest readers. Colorless, pictureless read aloud books.

Think voracious readers but also think reluctant readers, especially boys. Building a library like this might be a fun project for pre-teens, teens, parents, or young adults. I'd say grandparents but as far as choosing books that entice today's kids to read, make it a project for younger groups. As far as timeless books, much loved by many generations, age won't matter. Retired adults or empty nesters might enjoy buying books or donating money to buy books or replace well-loved, worn out books.

The goal: to collect books that people might not buy or can't find in a library that might serve a particular age group, particularly emerging readers - tools to grow a child's reading skills and faith.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Discipline & Class Management Strategies

I just read an article about discipline in Children's Church. Most places set up Children's Church differently from Sunday School. I'm in my 50's and things were definately done differently at home, school and church when I was a child but I'm not a fan of corporal punishment. Here are some thoughts that apply in any number of situations.

A good teacher focuses on what they need to cover and how to cover it in the alloted time in a way that enables as many children as possible to succeed. I did well with preschool but otherwise I wasn't the best classroom teacher because I got distracted from my goals looking for ways to draw in individual children. We didn't always get from point A to point B. We tended to take side trips.

When we think of controlling a classroom we think "Discipline" but here are some strategies you may not have thought of:

Know every child's name and something about them. Remember something they told you about the week before and when they walk in or sometime during the class ask them (not publically, just one on one) how it's going.

A 5:1 average child:adult ratio is great if you can get it. These tips apply to every adult in the room.

Praise every child you see doing something right. Again, not publically, just one on one. You have to be watching. For some kids you might have to be keenly observant. You might even have to change what you consider "right, good, kind,"  Find something legitimate and positive to say. 'You have an amazing amount of energy!" But it's not that hard. 

Encourage your kids to catch each other doing something right or kind, to say thank you, to encourage one another. Engage their problem-solving capabilities. Respect the fact that some kids are group people and social butterflies and some aren't. Some are pencil and paper/sit & listen politely kids. Some not so much. Not that they can't learn these skills but mix them up with more desireable activites.

Anticipate trouble and design your time, your room, your groups and activities accordingly.At least in the beginning. Let the kids draw while your read to them. Let them build with sponge blocks that don't make any noise while your read to them.  When kids earn privileges, add them. When they act up take them away. Painting, clay, legos, markers, field trips... Add them the following week or at the end of class when you've had a really good week. I'm not talking about something like exercise, food, water. Timing is important. Don't wait too long. You may have items or activities that most of the class doesn't care about but someone who is hard to handle or keep focused might do anything for it.

And what about those kids? Why don't they care? What would they rather be doing instead? Why are they acting up? If they want attention and act inappropriately until they get it, then yes, withdraw attention or isolate them. But have super rewards when they're good. If they act up because they feel inadequate, without humiliating them, find tasks for them that will make them feel adequate. If they have energy to burn have parents send them in play clothes and play run around games or an active thinking game before class. If they need motivation , what motivates them? How can you weave something they care about into their class experience? Yes, we're commanded to love the Lord our God with all our heart, mind, soul, strength, but we're also commanded to love our neighbor (the kids in our class) as ourselves.

It may be that you can wait until the end of class to introduce your motivators or you may need one every 15 minutes. You can also divide your room into stations and start your groups in such a way that the kids who are hardest to motivate get the stations they care most about begining, halfway, and last through the cycle and at the end. For kids who don't even want to walk through your door you might want those activities available to them first thing. Figure out what you can use to distract a child from an inappropriate behavior to something more appropriate.

I'm not saying that there aren't times when a child just has to do what she has to do without rewards but there are ways to lay a foundation for a relationship that can handle that. I'm not talking expensive hype consumerism or multi-media but appropriate individual care & attention in a group setting and attention to individual differences. God made these kids. We might mess them up but God made them.

Don't threaten if you're not going to follow through everytime and immediately. Don't make rules you can't or won't enforce. Your kids just learn that your words don't mean anything and you don't want to teach them in a Sunday School class that words have no power. But that's a discussion for another time.

Monday, October 18, 2010

. . . an odd movie, perhaps, to post about . . .

Blogger ate random part of my last try. Let's try again...

Someone is bound to be upset about my posting this but there was a conversation about violence earlier. Last night we watched the The Secret of Kells. Apparently it found a wider audience in Europe than here, understandably so. Some Americans look for God's divine direction and intervention in our history. Many other cultures can do that as well. I would use this movie more to stimulate discussion and conversation than for use as a teaching tool but understand that the Book of Kells contains the four gospels, hand-written during the dark ages with extravagantly illuminated (illustrated) handwork combining the best of Irish handwork and iconography.

I found it rather fascinating from an artistic point of view. It is also an interesting interpretation of events.

Do your research first. I'd read "How the Irish Saved Civilization," one of my favorite books, maybe because I learned alot about the church that I'd never heard before. I also played with drawing Celtic knot patterns for a while after we celebrated St.Pat's Day at Artisan a few years back, looking for activities for the kids. As with any creative endeavor they tend to take on a life of their own. It would probably also help to know the legends of Kells & Iona and the saints featured in the story and the background on the fairy which I didn't read ahead. Try picture books from your local library.

You can look at it as a story about the Christian and Pagan cultures of one people/one place joining forces to face an enemy from the outside but there are many many layers. The main character is a child. The adults in the story, the child, the fairy, the community, all have their own individual battles to win. There's also the intergenerational differences about what's important. If you focus your children on unconditional obediance don't waste your time watching this although Brendan's gentle "no" is obviously for a higher cause. The Irish monks were known for being softer than those from the Roman church which comes across in their voices and dialogue but not neccessarily the face of the abbot. All in all, a fascinating movie about faith and culture, internal and external foes, generational differences, fear, literacy, nature, art and spirit . . . lots, lots, lots! Though the movie doesn't focus on this, if you do your research, you can focus your audience on what God did.

*if my link to the movie doesn't work it's easy to find.

Friday, October 15, 2010

creating a faith-filled child counter culture

Here's a topic to ponder. Found this short article at Kidmo! Grl!
What can we provide that parents can't? Just to get you thinking.

Why have a Sunday School? Why not just let kids learn and practice their faith at home and then it practice out in the world? What's the same in your faith community as in every other environment your children experience during the week? What's different? What are they learning? What are they practicing?  What purpose does age appropriate or age segregated social grouping serve? How about non-age segregated social grouping? What purpose does a faith community serve to a single child? to children as a group, a generation?

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Wrestling with Cultural Shifts 2

Who would ever have dreamed that a culture would discredit God's word for the violence there? It's always been there. The Old Testament is full of slaughter and often at God's own hands and generations of children sat around the fire listening to war stories, stories about heroes and victories won. We use our imaginations and (depending on our experiences) we controll the intensity of the image we create when we listen, when we read. If we watch TV and movies, those who produce the show create those images for us.

Fortunately, war isn't all we find in the scriptures. Was God just responding to a culture in ways that particular culture could understand? Are we really such a kind, gentle, peace-loving people who have no point of reference for such things? God knew there would be generations who would respond like this. And if we were truly a kind gentle peace-loving people. Would God use different images to teach us or respond differently?

We're uncomfortable with scripture that seems to contradict our cultural sensitivities. We're uncomfortable with scripture that seems to contradict itself, let alone talking about these things with our children. We're afraid. Afraid of being right. Afraid of being wrong. Afraid of misrepresenting God, afraid that scripture will leave our kids unequipped to face the real world. But scripture was set in the real world - a violent world. We're a cowardly fearful people. But we can't be or we won't inherit the kingdom of God. God didn't hesitate to wage war but God is Love. We're forced to wrestle with that.

The church accuses the world of violence, inappropriate sexual excess, materialism, consumerism....etc etc. The world looks at us and sees the same stuff... What do we do with this? We don't live to please people but to please God. But Christians, even Bible-believing Christians, disagree among ourselves. But the questions and issues we wrestle with really aren't new because "there is nothing new under the sun". How do we handle the scriptures as God's holy Word in a culture that clashes with it, when the lines aren't so clean as they used to be in "Christian-Judeo society". What does reconciliation with God look like in our culture? In any culture? Is it always the same? Man is the same. Jesus is the same. God is the same. His Word is the same. But I bet a soldier knows the Warrior God differently than I do. God the judge, God the shepherd, God the king...a judge, shepherd, king all know different sides of God than I do.

Where is God while these cultural tectonic plates are shifting? Somewhere in that place that doesn't shift and shake. The quake is inevitable, but I'd rather not be standing on a crack. My husband will call it a "paradigm shift"...I'm thinking paradigm quake...How do we walk with our children there? We tell them the stories of scripture and wrestle with them in the context of our world.

We keep coming back to God generation after generation to wrestle with Him and His Word... what matters to God? How do we know? What do we hold on to? What's cultural? Is that just someone's interpretation? Is interpretation even an option? What is the Kingdom that will never be shaken? The two greatest commandments sum up the ten...

I decided to do a quick word search for "violent" (first NIV, then NAS) recalling something in scripture about the Kingdom being taken by violent men... I found it. I don't understand it but I found it. While I was looking for that, I ran over the passage from Acts 2. I should say it ran over me - maybe because I was looking and thinking about expressions of cultural violence (war and killing) and natural disasters and ... gosh...I looked at the word "violent" in the context of Acts 2 and . . . well? The spirit showing up like a violent wind . . . God's Spirit? God! What does that mean?...

I want to think that I fear God...Men, women, and children who experience war or natural disaster - something destructive and totally beyond their control will have very different feelings attached to "violence" or even the "fear of the Lord" than those of us who don't. We are a culture used to being "in control" - not face to face with the earth and it's seasons - day after day dependent on a field for food, hoping for rain when our food plants start to shrivel and the water's running out, hoping for sun when it won't stop raining so the potatoes don't rot. Hoping that grasshoppers won't destroy next season's food as they fly through. Faced with the floods, tsunamis, hurricanes, oil spills, terrorists we're forced to face things we can't control and quite frankly...are you surprised for God to feel compelled to continually remind a generation that has so much control over its environment that we aren't the ones in control?

Jacob was a shrewd deceptive controlling man but he wrestled with God and won. That wrestling to win resulted in a (probably painful) permanent injury. He ended up with a dislocated hip which would have seriously impeded his day to day ability to move for the rest of his life in an agricultural, pastoral, nomadic time. They didn't have wheel chairs or hip replacement. He wrestled with God because he wanted God's blessing. He fought with God. He argued with God if you will. It wasn't enough to have his father's blessing - he wanted God's blessing. It came at a cost and the end result blessed not just a man but a nation, both far from perfect, at that... 

So? Welcome! You've been "birthed" into an imperfect faith-filled group of people who wrestle with God generation after generation and remain faithful to the God of the scriptures despite the contradictions they find everywhere. God is God. Look at the wars of the Old Testament. Did God condone them or was it man being man. And what role did God play? Were they superstitious (non-scientific) to ask these questions? Did Jesus need an anger management seminar when he was throwing things around in the temple? Look at what He said to Peter when Peter took out his sword and cut off someone's ear. If it's in the scriptures, it's there for a reason - all of it, "useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that the man of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work."(2 Tim 3:16-17 NIV) despite the contractions. Because of the contradictions, I'm left to wrestle: how is it all true? Solomon in his wisdom...for everything there is a season and a time for every purpose under heaven.

So, how do we prepare and equip our children to make our God their God the way every generation's had to? How do we prepare them to walk faithfully in changing cultures the way every generation's had to? How do we train them to faithfully wrestle with God and all that seems to contradict itself and end up with God's blessing and the ability to bless others . . .

One step at a time . . .I start by giving myself and those around me permission to wrestle with God. Maybe God's people succeeded because they started learning to wrestle as parent and child walking, talking every day when they rose up, when they lay down, when they walked along the way together. Maybe that's the place they learned to wrestle with God's word and life as they knew it age appropriately. Everything in it's time, everything in its season. There was a time and a season for the people of God to await a Messiah, a time and a season for Jesus to come to this earth, a time and a season for subsequent generations to remain until He comes again - a very long season of watching and waiting and wrestling and continuing to work at whatever He's given us to do ... always...until He comes. God help us as we wrestle with Him! God bless you!

Wrestling with Cultural Shifts 1

I have crazy too much to do right now - the cutting party for the activity room for the book festival is tomorrow. I'm subbing at a doggie day care part time for a couple of weeks but I have to finish this. It's long but done for now. If you've been reading this for 5 years, you may find this a bit hackneyed - great word- but let me back track a little. More than five years ago we became part of a post-modern church plant. Terms like "emergent," or "postmodern" were new to us. When it was time for childrens' ministry nobody wanted to do it so I volunteered. The only resource I could find about this "new" culturally conscious approach to faith community was Ivy Beckwith's Postmodern Children's Ministry.

I found Dr. Beckwith's book prophetic: keenly observing the very early stages of what was about to become a monumental cultural shift, calling us to pay attention, change, and respond appropriately as God's ambassadors. In every generation God looks for people willing to wrestle with Him to understand the times and lead His people through.

Having grown up with great-grandparents, grandparents and parents all of whom were faith-filled, devoted church people, having raised our own kids (21 to 29 years old) in the church, I'm thinking that these progressive cultural differences are perhaps the most dramatic differences of any generation gaps in the history of man. My children are bridges between past and future. Maybe children always are. Their attitudes towards God, life, the outdoors, technology, consumerism are rooted in my generation and those past, but churned and sifted through the secular and sacred cultures they pass through and hopefully God's Word. I don't envy them the job they'll have as parents to amalgamate past, present, future and scripture for their children. I don't envy them at all, coward that I am...

So posed a question here. The word "ultra-violent" probably doesn't even exist in cultures familiar with war. Someone mentioned that in cultures who depend on hunting for food and raising livestock for food there exists a different attitude towards living things - a more respectful attitude, perhaps. But, having grown up on a farm, I want to say when it comes to animals, farm people have a different respect for animals they depend on but they also think business. They aren't raising companion animals to be kept and fed and sit on a lap. An animal has to earn its keep - not unlike creatures of the wild and not in itself inhumane but rather a different culture. If hunting is the only way you eat, you think differently than someone who can buy their food in a grocery store. I want to think that when those who recognize their dependency on other living things for survival are more apt to care for them in a way that will benefit both in the long haul or he won't live very long.

Violence: If someone is holding a knife to your throat or your daughter's, or violently trying to take away your freedom or your home you may think differently about the ethics of killing than you will as an observer. I'd like to think I would be able to make godly choices but the reality is that I don't know. And what if I turn the other cheek and let someone rape or kill my child.  Doesn't that mean I don't care enough to fight for what I love. . .? Is that the lukewarmness that Christ condemns in Revelation?

I was going to explore what "humane" means in the cultures of animal species but that word as a concept doesn't exist there. Respect does, doing what has to be done for survival does. In my opinion that is not the same as one creature inflicting unwarranted, inappropriate physical, emotional trauma on another like we find among men. Respect and mutual dependency exist but it's not always "humane" but hey, animals aren't human. For man, most of our choices today aren't life or death spontaneous decisions. Well, they probably are life or death but we don't see the effects of those choices like a rabbit who hesitates. Non-human creatures learn to survive by whatever means are in their best interest at the time but most of us are far removed from that immediate cause and effect. We don't live on the edge.

So man, responds to what we deem unwarranted and inappropriate physical and emotional trauma and rebounds, erring on the side of permissive. We don't have to respond like a creature in the wild. We're not fighting for our lives. We're not protecting our loved ones from imminent danger. We live safe, non-confrontational lives and we judge the rest of the world accordingly. We don't know how to correct appropriately and effectively so we don't do it. Life consequences aren't severe so we don't simulate any level of severity on our young.

Historically, and in the natural world, there is a place for correction and a place for appropriate reward. Appropriate effective correction (not violent) needn't displace appropriate praise and reward. Children need both. Both inappropriate praise and inappropriate correction can cause irreparable damage. We need the wisdom and skills to respond appropriately to individual differences in the context of the larger community but that assumes that we live in a cultural environment where everyone thinks the same way about what's acceptable behavior and what isn't. We don't. On top of that, if you look at where children spend most of their time, who's job is it to train children for life?

I'm not a fan of harshness, violence, war, killing. I don't know what I would be willing to fight for. I would rather live peacefully and compromise than fight. . . I would... but all this is cultural. Scripturally, it appears that there are things God was willing to fight for and argue about and punish for severely. There are things God expected His people to be willing to fight for, or was it just cultural? There are times when even Jesus came on hard and things He was willing to get violent about.

So what's happening? The cultural shift we're experiencing, from my perspective, is monumental. People are reacting to the fact that the scriptures are full of war and violence. They are. It's probably not bad to hate war and violence but scripture tells us there's a time to fight. Other generations seemed to be able to handle that. We can't. Why? There are aggressors, defenders, and victims of war...always...unfortunately. The age old question - "when is it justified?" For those who sift their culture through the scriptures they can look back and say, "God said..." For those who sift the scripture through their culture, "How can this possibly be God if God is Love?". Ecclesiastes tells us there is a time and a season for everything - even things we'd rather not do. So my faith says, "For everything there is a season..." Not just peace and love but war, too. Even violence - but I don't like it.

Sifting my faith through my culture or my culture through my faith, requires me to wrestle with God. Generation after generation, the clash of culture with faith forces us to wrestle with God. Jacob wrestled with God. He wrestled to make the God of his father his own God and he wrestled for God's blessing.

So we wrestle with God about all these cultural elements. "What do the scriptures say?" "What was cultural?" "Why did this happen?" I don't think it was an accident that the scriptures were set in the context of many centuries worth of cultural settings, though they don't seem dramatically different to us culturally and socially. They're full of all the same issues that every generation faces, yet God remains the same yesterday, today and forever looking for faithful men and women. As grandparents, parents, teachers, we can sift the scriptures through the winds of our culture or sift our culture through the winds of scripture and catch the grain that remains and let the wind blow the chaff away and I bet most of you can't even relate to that metaphor. A cultural shift. We need grain for bread and bread for life but even that analogy probably doesn't mean what it used my house we're on a no-carb diet for pete's sake...imagine sharing the scriptures with a culture that doesn't eat bread...

Friday, October 08, 2010

Bravo for reading and I'm all for chapter book read-alouds but very very sad, at the same time. Article from the NY Times this morning