Thoughts on presenting scripture…

There’s an important conversation taking place on the message boards, regarding how we present the Bible to children. There’s been chronic tension between Christian educators over whether we should present the Bible chronologically or topically.

I think the answer is “both.” There’s a benefit to a topical approach to scripture.  We are able to help children apply the truths of the Bible. Thom and Joani Schultz, at Group Publishing, have pointed to some irrefutable research that people tend to remember facts that are applicable to them. (You’ll have a better chance of remembering one phone number of a new friend than you will of recalling the phone numbers of ten strangers read from a phone book.)

There are dangers, though, of reorganizing scripture for purposes of teaching. We can destroy the plot. Best Selling author, Donald Miller, writes about attending a workshop on screen writing and the power and elements of story. Miller concluded by writing…

 “It did not escape me, as I listenend to 36 hours of story deconstruction, how powerful story is. The overwhelming majority of the Bible, in fact, is story. We often think of the Bible as creeds and precepts, but it is anything but. Instead, the stories of the Bible work to create an internal map, a guide and compass, teaching us what is worth pursuing and what is worthless, what is meaningful and what is not. Right and wrong, then, are not often taught by lists (truth without meaningful context) but rather through the tools of story. The seminar made me wonder why religious institutions who aim to teach ancient texts don’t have story departments alongside their systematic pursuits. It seems that one might benefit from the other. If scripture, in fact, were an indication of priority, the systematic methodology might be relegated to a small room at the back of campus within which we might find a professor with a calculator and an overhead projector. And this makes me wonder if our focus on creedal reductions were not an attempt to validate ourselvs to the age of reason rather than an attempt to understand what God has spoken.”

-Donald Miller. www.donaldmillerwords.

So the “topical” nature that Miller is concerned with is systematic theology. There’s nothing wrong with teaching a child the doctrine of the Trinity, but not at the expense of the story, Miller would suggest.

I’m currently reading a French philosopher and theologian, Jacque Ellul, who speaks to a dangerous trend (when in excess) in modern preaching and children’s ministry– reorganizing the story for the sake of “moralism.” Back in 2001, I wrote an article “Free Your Mind” in Children’s Ministry Magazine that warned of the dangers of viewing Bible stories as fables waiting to be assigned morals. I thought I was being original at the time, but Jacques covered this ground back in 1948:

“One of the first series of conclusions will doubtless appear very abstract and difficult! It consists in the fact that the Christian cannot judge, or act, or live according to “principles”, but in the reality, lived here and now, of the eschaton— the very opposite of an ethic.

“We must be convinced that there are no such things as “Christian principles.” There is the person of Christ, who is the principle of everything. But if we wish to be faithful to him, we cannot dream of reducing Christianity to a certain number of principles (though this is often done), the consequences of which can be logically deduced. This tendency to transform the work of the living God into a philosophical system is the contant temptation of theologians….”

Jacques Ellul, The Prescence of the Kingdom. 2nd Edition. p. 40.

Simply put, our job isn’t to instill into children an impersonal moral code (And our job is definately not to call the code “Christianity.”) Our job is to introduce children to Jesus, who gladly takes on the responsibility of guiding a child through life.

Finally, and I know this post is getting too long, I highly recommend N.T. Wright’s Simply Christian. I recently read this thin book and was reminded of the over-arching story and plot of scriptures. It’s worth the read.

Nielson: The Av. American Family has Access to 100 channels.

Remember Bruce Springsteen lamenting that there’s “57 channels but nothings on”?

Well if he ever remakes that song he’ll have to scoot the number higher. The latest Nielson numbers estimate the average channels per household at a little over 100.

1 in 10 School Cafeterias Not Health Inspected

Millions of children eat at cafeterias who don’t get health inspected during the course of the year. The inspections ensure that the food is served at proper temperatures, that the dairy products are refrigerated properly, etc. 1 of 10 school cafeterias are never visited by health inspectors while another large percentage only get one of the two visits required by law.

Psalm 119 ends on a Blue Note

This week my leadership/mentoring/accountability group read and mediated on Psalms 119. I saw struck by the last verse of the song.

“I have gone astray like a lost sheep; seek your servant/ For I do not forget your commandments.”

This is David’s magnus opus, a massive acrostic Psalm outlining the merits of God’s Word and his passion for it– from “A” to “Z”. 176 verses on the benefits and beauty of the Torah and here’s what David doesn’t say….

“I’ve arrived.”


“My life is perfectly order around the Word.”

Instead, David concludes his celebration of the perfection of the Word with a realization of how fragile he is and how dependant he is on God.

How depressing.

How wonderful.

Leadership applications? No matter how long you and I handle the Word, we will always be profoundly weak and utterly dependant upon God.

And the best selling video game console is…

… it’s not the PS3, the Wii, or the XBOX 360… but the PS2. While Wii is the most popular of the new generation of consoles, the PS2 reigns in sales. Sony has taken a beating over the lack of buzz surrounding the PS3 and has chose to continue to support and sell their old console. Read more at Slate.

Book Review: Myspace for Moms and Dads


Connie Neal / Zondervan  Reader Appeal: Parents 

Genre: RELIGION/ Christian Life/ Family THE REVIEWPerhaps it’s inconceivable only to me, but, somehow, I’ve found myself the parent of a teenager this past year. And right on cue, my son is asking for all of the adolescent accessories—email accounts, a cell phone, and a TV and Internet access in his bedroom. I’ve conceded on the email account but the rest will have to wait. A teen should come with a Surgeon General’s Warning. “Caution: Raising a teen may result in sleepless nights and increased anxiety levels.”
If you’re the parent of a teen, you owe it to yourself to introduce yourself to Connie Neal. Connie is an author and speaker who specialty is understanding “the intersection of parenting and pop culture.” Connie is the deep breath that every parent needs to take before hyperventilating over all the challenge of raising godly children in the American culture.

Connie’s latest book, MYSPACE FOR MOMS AND DADS, is designed to help busy parents understand the Internet phenomena known as social networking. “Social Networking” is using home computers and the Internet to connect with peer and to make new friendships. Some of the more popular social networking websites include Myspace and Facebook. Parents might be aware and wary of social networking due to a rash recent news stories that detail how sexual predators have used Myspace to connect with teens and lure them into face-to-face meetings.  Connie uses her calming logic and sanity to calm parents and to give them the tools they need to navigate this new world of social networking. Connie defuses the emotional charge surrounding social networking with her methodical treatment of the book. Part One explains what the history of social networking. Part Two walks as parent through the mechanics of setting up a “Myspace” account. In Part Three, Connie explains the draw of Myspace on teenagers. Teens use social networking to meet God-given developmental needs. Connie helps you connect with your teens’ needs by reminding you of their basic relational needs to connect and to express themselves. Finally, Connie offers a Christian framework to Christian parents decide if Myspace is right for their teens.  

One of the most valuable features of the book is a section that trains parents how to customize the Myspace profile to reduce the risk of teens encountering unsafe people or on-line “friends” with unchristian values. Parents will also be equipped with the proper questions to ask their teens to help monitor their healthy use of Myspace.  Readers familiar with Connie Neal’s writing know that she is biased toward engaging culture and for using cultural trends to train discerning teenagers. Connie’s “Walking Talk in
Babylon” is her manifesto calling parents to train children capable of interpreting and discerning the cultural messages that surround them. Don’t expect to hear a simplistic “Myspace is good” or “Myspace is evil” from Connie. Instead, she’ll give you the information you’ll need to engage your teenager regarding this important issue.

After reading MYSPACE FOR MOMS AND DADS, I’m not ready to give my teen permission to join for now. However, this will be a valuable guide to refer to when my oldest is a bit older and wiser.   You can connect with Connie on Myspace at 

Pastor Todd asked for a reading list…

Here’s a list of what I’ve read in the past couple of months. I tend to cycle through the topic of leadership, theology, fiction.

 Recently I’ve read…

“Myspace for Mom and Dad” by Connie Neal. I’ve  known Connie for years. I met her at Group Publishing years ago. She inspired/aggitated me to start the Harry Potter reading clubs a few years back.

I’m on an N.T. Wright kick. Wright is a brilliant theologian who has the rare gift of being able to communicate plainly. I’ve finished “The Challenge of Jesus”, “Evil and the Justice of God”, and “Simply Christian.” I think it’s crucial for children’s ministers to constantly self-educate themselves theologically. Otherwise we run the danger of passing on a simplistic (instead of simple) faith to children. Reading N.T. Wright has inspired to dust off some curriculum I wrote several years ago on the Beatitudes/Kingdom of God, revise it, and teach it again.

My editor at regularly mails me books to review. He’s sent me some great fiction reads lately. “Sinner” by Sharon Carter Rogers is a brilliant first time novel. And I’ve discovered the joys of Ted Dekker. I just read “Who Really Cares”, a book about charitable giving and how relgious and political beliefs influence it. Next month I’ll be posting reviews on “Who Really Cares” and “Palestine: Peace Not Appartheid”, as well as Connie’s book.

The best book I read last year was Jim Palmer’s “Divine Nobodies.”

Hope that helps. And Keith should post his list. He might be the most well read children’s minister I’ve ever met.

Social Networking Updates… Myspace for Mom's and Dad's, the Fall of Tweenland, and Nick

A few months ago, Keith posted on and shortly there after the founder contacted us to provide information regarding the site. Unfortunately, the site was shut down. It was simply too much for one man to manage and investors didn’t commit to the site soon enough. Read more here…

In other notes on social networking. I just finished Connie Neal’s “ for Mom’s and Dad’s.” Connie makes the sense of social networking for busy parents, and offers helps on what questions parents should ask teens to be informed. If a  parent reads Connie’s book they’ll have the information they will need to be credible guides for their teens. (I’m still convinced that myspace isn’t safe for elementary-aged children, but Connie is writing for parents of teens.)

And Finally, is creating ME TV… a safe place for children to post their favorite video clips.

Child dies for want of an $80 tooth proceedure.

Here’s a tragic story about a 12-year-old from MD who died after receiving brain surgery. He needed the surgery due to bacteria which had spread to his brain. The bacteria was caused by a bad tooth going unaddressed. Unfortunately this story is being turned into a political football. Some are pointing to holes safety net and how difficult it is to find a Medicare dentist. Others hold the mother culpable. 

The story reminds us all that upcoming election will have large implications on the care of children.  

Twinkies Deconstructed

Steve Ettlinger’s new book examines the question, “Why can you bake a cake with as little as six ingredients while it takes 39 to make a Twinkie?”

The answer? A Twinkie needs to last forever on the shelf. So there can be no dairy products and nothing perishable inside.

In his new book Ettlinger examines every ingredient found in a Twinkie. He did so without the support of Hostess. He pain stakingly identifies every barely pronouncible ingredient therein…   calcium sulfate, a dough conditioner, earns the label a “food-grade plaster of Paris.”

Twinkies were a childhood fav. of mine. I enjoyed not understanding those moist cakes with the seven-year shelf life.