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Archive - May, 2009

Dam About to Burst?

(picture originally uploaded to Flickr by iDanSimpson)

I’m sure you’ve all been there. You’re watching a movie, you’ve drunk too much, and you’ve got to… you know… use the facilities. The only thing is you’re not sure when a good time to go is. You don’t want to miss anything good, so you sit there until you can’t sit any longer. When you come back, your movie-going partner states that you’ve missed “the best part” of the movie!

If only there was a way to know when a good time to go empty your bladder was?

Well, there is! I was listening to net@night and Leo and Amber highlighted a wonderful new site called RunPee.com. It is a site that lets you know when there are some good times to leave a movie so you can get rid of that excess fluid generated by your kidneys. There aren’t many movies on there right now, but it is growing. Apparently, you can join the army of reviewers and submit your very own “pee times” to the site.

Just thought this would be a fun and useful link for those times you are out doing some “kid culture research” at the movie theatre and find that you need to avail yourself of the facilities.


What Do You Ooze?

(picture originally uploaded to Flickr by Lacrymosa)

Mark Batterson had a post entitled “Finding Your Voice” on his blog a couple of weeks ago. Here is an excerpt:

“One part of finding your voice is identifying your life themes. C.S. Lewis said, ‘Every life is comprised of a few themes.’ Over time you identify those unique God-given convictions that drive you. For example, there are ways of doing church that no one has thought of yet. That is one of my themes. A life theme isn’t something you know. It’s something you ooze out of your pores. It’s not something you define. It’s something that defines you. It’s more than head-knowledge. It’s a gut-conviction.”

One of my themes is to look at what is happening in culture and the direction the church seems to be going in and finding out how all of that affects how we minister to children and families. That is what this blog is about.

What is your theme? What oozes out of your pores?


How Could I Have Missed This?

Last week, I opened up an email from Willow about the Lead Summit. They had some downloadable material, one of which was the introduction and first chapter to a book by the president of Compassion International called Too Small To Ignore.

Here’s a small excerpt:

“What portion of your church budget is dedicated to children’s ministry? If it is more than 15 percent, yours is an exceptional church. What portion of your denomination’s mission budget is spent on worldwide children’s ministry? Again, if it is more than 10 percent, that is very rare.

Have you ever heard a major radio or television program or even a single broadcast advocating children’s ministry? Ever seen an edition of your favorite Christian magazine focused exclusively on children? Who are the hardest volunteers to recruit in your local church? Often it’s the nursery workers and children’s Sunday school teachers.

Can you name a single evangelical leader who is known as an outspoken champion for children, a D. L. Moody of today? I can’t. No, the church simply cannot wash its hands of the great omission.”

Yeah, my heart was pumping, too!

I was surprised to find out this book came out last May. How could I have missed a book like this one?

I haven’t read the book yet. I did order it, though, and will be reading it and then posting a review in a couple of weeks. I just thought that I’d let you all know about the book now.

Now that I think of it, is there anyone who would be interested in being part of doing a chapter-by-chapter review of the book here on Elemental Children’s Ministry? What you would need to do is contact me by clicking here and filling out the contact form expressing your interest. Then, you would need to order the book, commit to reading the chapter assigned to you and writing a brief review of the chapter that would be posted here on Elemental Children’s Ministry as well as wherever you’d want. I have participated in something like that before, and it was fun. Anyone interested? It doesn’t have to be a New York Times Book Review. It just has to be your honest impressions. Click here to contact me or leave a comment and let me know of your interest. I will get back to you with the details.


Movie Review: Fireproof

Fireproof is the second movie put out by the same people who made Facing the Giants and stars Kirk Cameron who I will always see as Michael Sievers on the 1980s TV show Growing Pains.

I remember hearing about Fireproof when it first came out in September 2008. I have to be honest and say that my reaction was, “Oh great! Another ‘Christian’ movie.” If you’ve know me or have read my blog for a while, you already know that is my default response to Christian entertainment. I was also turned off by all the hype it was getting. Recently, though, a number of couples in our church had seen the movie and reacted positively to the movie. Some had even suggested showing the movie at church to a larger audience. So, I thought I’d have to be fair and watch the movie before passing further judgement on it.

With the rest of my family being in California this week, I took the opportunity to have a relaxing Sunday afternoon and watch the movie.

My one-sentence review:

“It wasn’t horrible.”

Now, that might seem like a bad review, but for a “Christian movie” that is a good review from me. This was a definite improvement from Facing the Giants.

I could go on and describe all the parts that made me roll my eyes or cringe like a few moments of bad acting, some artificial dialogue, and coming really close to oversimplifying the complex issues of bringing a marriage back from the brink of divorce. I’ll simply leave my criticism there.

On the positive end, I was rather surprised by the movie. I was expecting yet another cheesy and horribly written moral tale. What I saw was a pretty good attempt at making a traditional evangelical view of relationships and marriage fit a broader audience. The movie also did a fair job of trying to get the audience to empathize with the main characters.

Fireproof presents the importance of commitment within a marriage as well as what it means to sacrificially love your spouse without overdoing the moralizing too much. I think that this movie would be appropriate to show an audience of Christ-followers as a catalyst to help married couples communicate with each other surrounding issues of self-sacrifice, unconditional love, respect and generosity towards each other.

You can check out all things Fireproof at the movie website. You can also order Fireproof from Amazon as well as the book that is referenced in the movie, The Love Dare.


Conference Stalker

(photo originally uploaded to Flickr by alan(ator))

My name is Henry Zonio, and I am a conference stalker.

With the explosion of social media tools like Twitter and blogs and live streaming apps and such, I’ve been able to listen in on a few conferences and even feel like I’m somewhat there and experiencing it. There were three conferences, in particular, that I vicariously attended through the magic of social media in April: Catalyst West Coast, C3 Kids, and Orange. It sounds really sad, I know. I probably need help, but it was an interesting experience.

Twitter

Twitter was the primary means by which I followed the three conferences. Most conferences have figured out the power of using a hashtag to pull the experiences of those attending and those observing together easily. If you don’t know what a hashtag is, you can check out my beginners’ reference guide to Twitter.

I was able to set up searches for the hashtags used at each conference in a program like Nambu or TweetDeck and follow live the tweets of those at the conference. The neat thing about following the tweets was that people not only tweeted what speakers were saying but they were tweeting things they were doing and experiencing and how they felt about things… people were even tweeting to find each other at the conferences. It was almost as if I had astral projected myself and hovered above the conference attendees listening in on what was being said. (No, I do not practice astral projection… it was the first metaphor that came to mind.)

One result of me not being at the conference and simply being an observer via Twitter, I was able to answer some of the questions people tweeted about which had been answered previously by others tweeting. My most memorable tweet assist was when I had noticed one person was tweeting looking for a free ticket to Catalyst West Coast and an hour later someone tweeted that they had a couple of tickets available. I was able to send a tweet to each of those individuals and help get them connected. I was so pumped to be able to do that from thousands of miles away!

The funniest thing about me jumping in and interacting in that way at the conferences was that a number of friends I’ve made online and at conferences thought that I was at each of the conferences.

Blogs

There weren’t too many people live blogging at the conferences. One reason was that at these conferences, there was either limited Wi-Fi access, no Wi-Fi, or Wi-Fi that cost extra. This really surprised me because a couple of these conferences were priding themselves on being wired and using social media. Just because you recruit some featured bloggers and tell people to tweet using a certain hashtag and say that you are wired does not mean you are wired. To really utilize the social mediasphere (yes, I made that word up… you can have it for free… just know you read it here first!) you need to allow the attendees free access to the “interwebs” and think of ways for attendees and observers to interface with the conference in some way… I have many thoughts on that but will have to be for another blog post.

I did appreciate those who did live blog and then later blogged their personal thoughts and impressions. I think there needs to be a lot more development on the live blogging front… on how to do it effectively… Tony Morgan is one of the best I’ve seen who live blogs at conferences.

Live Streaming

This is the one area I was hugely disappointed in. Conference organizers have not caught on to the impact they can have by live streaming, at least, the general sessions. One of the conferences was unable to stream because they were utilizing a large number of video clips which they did not have the rights to broadcast, so I get that. The other two conferences, though, gave the impression that they were not streaming because they didn’t want to “give away” the sessions. One conference did stream their opening session. Another conference had a backstage camera stream, but they intentionally turned off the sound and repositioned the camera away from the stage monitors when they read that people were listening to the general sessions (grrrrr).

Anyway, I could tirade on that for a long time… I won’t. I understand that conference planners need to worry about costs and the fact that people paid to go to the conference and they might lose people coming in following years if they can simply watch the sessions online. I think the concerns are unfounded, though. As for costs, find companies to sponsor the live broadcasts and tag their logo or web banner or whatever to the live broadcast. As for maybe keeping people from attending… I think you do the exact opposite. If you have a good conference, it’s about the experience of being there and meeting the people and rubbing shoulders with people. By allowing people to peer into the conference general sessions, you have the potential of making people regret that they weren’t there… that is if you have some amazing general sessions. Also, by streaming meaningful content, you are giving the message that you are more about equipping people than you are about your bottom line.

I know that it doesn’t make sense to “give away” content, but nothing about new media and marketing in this brave new world makes sense.

Concluding Thoughts

While I enjoyed being able to experience these conferences through different social media outlets, I found out quickly that I could get caught up in all that and disengage from what I was doing here. I had to discipline myself to not get immersed in that virtual experience for too long. It’s almost as bad if not worse than getting caught up in playing a video game for hours on end.

I also found out that there is definitely a market for conferences to further push the limits on creating a more “wired” conference. I think The Idea Camp did an amazing job at it. I think that if conferences don’t get the Meatball Sundae concept as put forward by Seth Godin, they will quickly lose their effectiveness. Conferences need to decentralize, find more creative ways to pay for capital expenses, create more ways for interactivity among attendees (live and virtual) and presenters, and give more away.

I just read this post by Tony Morgan on how the church utilizes the web and how it should be utilizing the web. Much of what he says can be applied to conferences as well.

  • Have you experienced a conference vicariously online? What was your experience with it?
  • What are your thoughts on the changes conferences need to make?
  • Do you think I need to get help?


Intellect and Experience?

(picture originally uploaded to Flickr by Stuck in Customs)

A few days ago, I began a conversation about how sometimes we love the experiencing of God more than loving God himself and referenced a post by Scot McKnight in the Out of Ur blog.

A couple of days later, I ran across this post on Jim Palmer’s blog, which serves as a contrast to McKnight’s post. Jim “thinks out loud” concerning the pursuit to know and comprehend God.

“What would it look like to let go of the need to understand and comprehend God, and instead to simply be present in the experience of God’s kingdom with no further need to comprehend or explain it? Like, what if that was enough and that was the way it was meant to be? No need to formulate concepts about it, no need to locate some place within a coherent belief system to authenticate or justify it, no need to judge it, understand it, or analyze it.”

How do we balance the pursuit to know God and how to best follow God with experience his love for us as well as being a part of his redemptive work in the world?

Is that even the right question to ask? Is it a matter of balancing? Or is it more an issue of managing seemingly polar opposites? Is it possible to experience God AND pursue a better understanding of who God is?

How do we teach kids to do both?


Whose Bible Do We Live By?


A couple of days ago, this tweet came up from Jim Wideman:

Immediately after that he tweeted this:

Now, I’m not trying to criticize Jim Wideman. He’s been around a lot longer than I have and has mentored many a children’s pastor. You can find out more about what he does at JimWideman.com.

I think, though, that we short-change the kids, families, and volunteers we minister to by simply telling people to “do what the Bible says.” If it were that simple, then why are there so many dedicated and intelligent Christ followers who disagree with each other on what is written within the pages of the word of God? That is exactly what Scot McKnight examines in his book The Blue Parakeet.

Scot McKnight challenges our assumptions that the Bible is simply a list of rules or a puzzle to be put together or a some kind of theological guide that needs to be systematized. He starts off by admitting to the elephant in the room of Christendom: we pick and choose how we read and apply the Bible. Now, I can hear the gasps of disbelief. What about inerrancy? What about being inspired by the Holy Spirit? McKnight isn’t saying the Bible isn’t the word of God. What he is saying, though is that the Bible isn’t meant to be read in parts but seen as a whole. The Bible is God’s story of bringing redemption to man and creation culminating in the death and resurrection of Jesus and continuing on into today as we join with the Holy Spirit in his ongoing redemptive work leading to his return. As we read the Bible, we need to interpret what is read through the backdrop of the entire story. Even then, we have to admit that each of us have lenses that we interpret scripture through and still don’t come to the same conclusions all the time.

Is this muddy? Doesn’t this allow for a subjective interpretation of scripture? I don’t think so because we also use the backdrop of history and tradition and creeds to inform our interpretations. What this way of reading and interpreting scripture does do is to help us to actually think through what we believe certain scriptures teach and not always opt for the “easy” or culturally popular answer.

As we begin to view scripture in this way, it becomes more alive and more dynamic than “Basic Instrcutions Before Leaving Earth.” The Bible becomes a living story which points us to the infinite God who created us and paid a huge price for us to be able to be in relationship with him again.

What does that mean for children’s ministry? It means that we help children learn the God story told in the Bible. It means we help children understand that the Bible is not an instruction book; it is not a guidebook. We help children understand that the Bible is God’s story written for us; it is his love letter that reveals who he is and points us to him. It means we stop telling kids, “Just do what the Bible says.”

I highly recommend Scot McKnight’s book The Blue Parakeet. It is easy to read and gives you a new perspective on how to read the Bible.

  • What goes through your mind when you hear someone say something like, “I just do what the Bible says”?
  • What do you think about McKnight’s method on reading the Bible?
  • What do you do to help children know the overall God Story of the Bible?


Go West Young Man!

(picture originally uploaded to Flickr by caribb)

By the time this post gets published, I will be only few short hours from boarding a plane to Portland, OR. I will be joining my family who’ve been on the West Coast for a week already. One of my wife’s sisters got married yesterday.

I am looking forward to this trip. We get to visit some friends in Oregon who we haven’t seen since leaving our previous church five years ago. We, then, are going to drive down to California to spend some time with my in-laws for a few days and my parents for a few days. It’s going to be a full trip but fun.

In order to make sure that I am not spending time on the computer during my trip, I have queued up some posts for the next couple of weeks. If you don’t get a response to comments you might leave, it’ll be because my wife has taken my computer hostage.

In the meantime, enjoy some reviews and more brief posts over the next couple of weeks. Maybe it’ll be warmer here, and I’ll be a bit more tan when I get back!


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