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Selling Practicality

It’s the practical stuff in children’s ministry that sells. It sells because it’s what works.

Just because it works doesn’t mean it’s what we need.

Blast from the Past Repost: What About Theology?

I was looking through my archives for a graphic image for the What’s in the Bible Curriculum launch I was a part of last week and ran across this post from August 2010. A year later, pursuing a crazy God thing, and I’m still as passionate about what this post talks about as I was then. A bit of a warning: the post is a tad longer, but I hope you read through it and share your comments. I’d love to hear your thoughts! (BTW, if you’re interested, here are the comments from when I originally posted this.)


(picture originally uploaded to Flickr by Joe Thorn)

I’ve been wondering, lately, whether we in church world (especially in children’s ministry) are overemphasizing a culture that is centered around leadership. There are countless books, articles, blogs (mine included), and conferences/workshops that focus on leadership issues. How can I be a better leader? How do I manage volunteers? How do I recruit volunteers? How do I lead up, down, all around, touch your toes, do the hokey pokey…?

Take a look at your bookshelf. I’m assuming you have one. How many books there are “leadership” books?

OK… how many are in the “how to do ministry” category?

Done? Alright, now how many books on your shelf deal with theological issues?


Has It Been a Month?!?

(image originally uploaded to Flickr by Lili Vieira de Carvalho)

Wow! I never expected transition to take this long. I mean you hear about it, you see others go through it, but you never expect change to take this long… maybe transition in child birth feeling like a month (not that I’d know since I am a lowly man who would never dare compare his life transitions with childbirth).

As I look back over the past months and begin taking stock of all that has happened, I have that puckering feeling you get when you stand at the edge of a tall mountain or building. You can read about some of what has been happening since we landed in California over at my wife’s blog. She does a way better job of telling the story than I ever could hope to, so I’m not going to even try. Hop on over and read her post.

The only thing to add to that while Erin is at work, I’m the one who is staying at home with the kids… Yup, I’m a stay-at-home dad. It’s the HARDEST thing I’ve ever done in my life! And if you don’t think we’re crazy already, we’re homeschooling the kids this year, and I’m the main teacher. Let me just tell you that juggling the attentions of 100+ kids from 4 years old through Grade 5 is cake compared to this! All in all, though, we know that we are in the center of the story God has for our family right now.

All that to say, I am beginning to get to a point where I’m not breathing through a straw while waves are crashing in over my head. I’m ready to jump back into blogging more regularly and sharing my thoughts on children’s ministry, theology and culture. I also am planning on reviving CM Edge, a podcast of children’s ministry people talking about children’s ministry.

There are some other exciting projects and ventures that I am chomping at the bit to tell you about, but you’ll just have to wait and see.

Up In The Air

(photo originally uploaded to Flickr by Dave Keeshan)

I’m so sorry that I have been so lax in blogging lately. I thought I’d be able to keep up with blogging while we’ve been in our transition time, but I’m realizing that I have a lot less time than I realize! We are still trying to find a place to live. While I appreciate the graciousness of my parents and my in-laws over the past month, we really need our own place. Would you please pray for us. We are looking for a place that is close to where my wife works, which is in Santa Clara, CA. We’ve been looking in Fremont and Newark but are open to other cities… those two have seemed the more affordable ones and are in close proximity to public transportation to get Erin to work. We’ll be staying closer to those areas this week in an extended stay hotel so we’re hoping to find something this week. With that in mind, also pray that the six of us don’t go crazy living out of a hotel for 7 days :)

Once we get more settled, we can establish a new rhythm, which includes me finding time for blogging!

BTW, thank you all for your support and prayers through this crazy leap of faith. I’m in awe of this community. I’ve heard from some of you who I’ve never met, and I know there are more of you who I haven’t heard from. It’s humbling to know there are people all over the place praying for us.

Love Your Enemies

I found out about this video on Eugene Cho’s blog. I thought it was pretty cool and a powerful way to jump start a conversation with children on loving your enemies.

Any ideas on how you would use it?


Prepackaged Goodness!

(picture taken from

I don’t know about you, but I’m really not into Hamburger Helper. It’s just plain nasty! I’m sure there are many out there who can’t think of anything better then digging into all that prepackaged goodness… more power to ya! (and a good cardiologist)

Anyway, I came across this cartoon and it got me thinking… How many times do we do this in children’s ministry? I see so many tweets and blogs and Facebook statuses talking about being Biblical. It’s almost as if there’s a competition out there to be the most Biblical. “Our curriculum is more Biblical than yours!” OK, maybe that isn’t explicitly what is said, but it’s pretty easy to read between the lines of all the not-so-subtle digs at other curriculums. Who’s to say that what you use or create for children is more Biblical than what someone else is doing or creating? C’mon!

We can become so arrogant about our understanding of the Bible that we forget that God is WAY bigger than the boxes we try and package him in. I’m not saying that being Biblical isn’t important. What I am saying is that our idea of “Biblical” isn’t the end all.

I can already hear it, “Well, it’s easy. You just teach from the Bible! What’s more Biblical than that?” If it were that simple then I would challenge you that your idea of God and understanding of Biblical is too small. God is infinite. To think that we can corner the market on Biblical interpretation is arrogant at the least and dangerously unorthodox at it’s worst.

If we are honest with ourselves, we would admit that we pick and choose what we focus on in the Bible. Some of us put more emphasis on free will while others of us focus more on God’s sovereignty. Some of us thrive on more contemporary forms of worship while others of us connect more fully to God in the midst of creeds and ritual. The list can go on.

I’m not saying we throw out the Bible. What I am saying is that we give our kids space to encounter the Bible with the Holy Spirit guiding them. We shouldn’t be so quick to interpret everything for them and systematize how they are “supposed” to understand the Bible in order to fit within your denominational distinctives. We need to help children see the Bible as a comprehensive story of who God is, how much he loves us, how we can follow him to have the most amazing life ever and how we can be a part of the redemptive and transformative work God is doing in the world around us.

If you haven’t already read it, I suggest that you pick up Scot McKnight’s book the Blue Parakeet. It’s a great resource on how to read the Bible in light of it being a comprehensive story of God’s desire to restore creation to what he intended for it.

  • What are some ways that you are prepackaging God for kids? Is that a good thing or a bad thing?
  • What are some ways you help children discover God?
  • How can we become more like facilitators and cultivators of spiritual formation rather than simply being conduits of information?

What Matters Now in Children’s Ministry: Why I Chose Ingenuity

Alright, I’m taking a cue from my friends Amy Dolan and Dan Scott and posting about my reasons for choosing my answer for What Matters Now in Children’s Ministry.

I chose the word Ingenuity.

Why that word? Well, I didn’t start off with that word. I knew what I wanted to write about. I just didn’t have a word. Back in December, I wrote a post about innovation in children’s ministry. I then followed that up witha series on being dynamic in children’s ministry. Those posts were my response to the love affair that we have with wanting models and programs and systems to follow so that we can do children’s ministry well.

I’ve been to my share of CM conferences and networking meetings and have perused so many books and articles and curriculum. The main thrust of these is to give “practical” models to adapt and/or follow. While I know that practical advice is important, I think that we limit ourselves to only searching out the practical.

We become too fearful of “reinventing the wheel” because we think it’s a waste of time. We follow the axiom, “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it” because we don’t want to mess with a good thing. If those are your philosophies, then great. But don’t pretend you’re being innovative or ingenious.

I’m not saying we ignore the past or not learn from those that have gone before us. What I am saying though is that the wheel always needs to be reinvented and if it ain’t broke, then maybe your aren’t trying hard enough. True ingenuity isn’t afraid to reshape, re-engineer and rethink what children’s ministry looks like. We need less people worrying about what curriculum or model they are using and more people experimenting with what they already have as well as daring to incorporate ideas and elements they’ve never considered using before in their children’s ministries.

What Matters Now in Children’s Ministry: Ingenuity

(picture was originally uploaded to Flickr by vancouverconvention)

With yesterday’s release of the FREE eBook What Matters Now in Children’s Ministry, I thought I’d share my contribution here at Elemental CM. The word I chose was Ingenuity.

Following a recipe is easy to do. It takes little skill. One only needs to follow directions.

Short order cooks follow recipes. World-class chefs create mouth-watering masterpieces.

Creating a culinary work of art isn’t so easy. It takes finesse and the understanding of how ingredients combine to create a dish that is tailored to the specific palate of an individual.

Why is it that you attend conferences, read books, network with others, and buy curriculum? Is it simply to gather and trade recipes for ministry? Or is it to gather inspiration, taste something different and discover ingredients you’ve never tried before?

True creativity, innovation and reformation in children’s ministry will only come when we dare to step beyond the tried and true recipes and are willing to experiment with new strategies and practices.

What are your thoughts on Ingenuity? I’d love to hear!

What word would you choose to answer the question, “What Matters Now In Children’s Ministry?”

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