Thinking Out Loud

November 2, 2015

“I Regret Sexting”

Finding a graphic image that matched today's title proved inadvisable, so we went with something informative instead, even though it's not entirely on the subject.

Finding a graphic image that matched today’s title proved inadvisable, so we went with something informative instead, even though it’s not entirely on the subject.

On Friday I was half-listening to a Christian radio station when something said made me grab a piece of scrap paper and write down a reminder to search online for the phrase “regret sexting” and other similar phrases. (No, I did not do an image search, but thanks for asking.) The results were plentiful and if you have teenagers kids over the age of nine (yes I’m serious) you can share this with them.

  • “I wish I could go back and listen to that voice in my head saying ‘no'”
  • …looking back on it, teens seem to have more negative feelings about sexting compared to the way they felt right after they sent the messages
  • “Our friendship died because of it. Now we act as if we hardly know each other. I hate losing people I care about. Wish we didn’t do it in the beginning because maybe we would have still been friends
  • When teen relationships fall apart, one or both teens will try to hurt their ex. One way that many teens will get back at each other is to use these sexts that were sent when things are good
  • “Okay I know what you’re thinking and I’m really ashamed and disgusted of myself right now, too”
  • High school students who send and receive sexually suggestive or explicit images are more likely to have symptoms of depression
  • “My sext was forwarded”
  • Over 25 percent indicated that they had forwarded it to others (2012 US survey)
  • 11 percent of all British people have sent a sext to the wrong person (2012 UK survey)
  • “I deleted everything I had… but still…I am fearing every single consequences regarding to my education, my record, and so on… I regret every single bit of it…”
  • In the US, even if everyone involved is over 18, “any type of sexual message that both parties have not consented to can constitute sexual harassment”
  • “I messed up … but I’d be a fool not to own up to it.” ~former teen TV star
  • 61% of all sexters who have sent nude images admit that they were pressured to do it at least once

So why cover this topic today?

7 Things Parents of Kids with Phones Need to Consider

  1. This is happening. The term sexting is not new but the number of participants keeps growing. Big time. What was once fringe has become mainstream. Age is no barrier. That your kids attend a Christian school doesn’t always preclude this. The easiest thing for a parent is to look the other way, or sweep this subject under the rug. For me, the easiest thing would be to choose a different topic for today.
  2. The attitude kids have toward this is shocking. It’s what you do. It’s viewed as almost necessary; a rite of passage. Parents (and grandparents) need to realize that even kids raised with good Christian ethics (in other areas) may be living within a completely different value system than existed when we were young.
  3. The popularity of this activity is a major paradigm shift in how today’s kids view their bodies, intimacy, privacy, sexuality, fidelity, etc., and we won’t know the full ripple effects of this shift in behavior for kids raised in this paradigm for at least another decade.
  4. Prevention is a worthy goal, but for many parents reading this, the genie is already out of the bottle. Your goal now may consist of damage control or perhaps even further damage control. Yes, Superman turned back time once, but that was a movie.
  5. The internet brings with it the potential of greater fallout days, weeks, months or even years down the road. You never know. Someone in our extended family experienced this over the summer with rather massive consequences.
  6. Preoccupation with their physical bodies and all the various social aspects of their sexuality (such as today’s topic, which we could file under media, but also what goes on after school, or at weekend parties) is consuming tremendous amounts of time and mental energy. Just as porn diminishes productivity in the workplace, sexting and all its related angst diminishes academic productivity at school. 
  7. A teen or preteen who has grown up in church or Sunday School or youth group may through their own shame suddenly feel unworthy to approach God. Just as Adam and Eve hid from God in the garden, some kids feel they no longer fit in at church, or no longer want to pretend to be ‘a good church kid.’ They may no longer wish to attend weekend services or youth events. For some this can go further: Their behavior somehow becomes a trigger which leads them down the road of theological and doctrinal doubts or rebellion.

Sourced from a variety of internet sites

August 15, 2015

The Divorce Effect – Part Two

Jeff-Snow First, if you haven’t already, click to read part one of this series. This is the second of three parts; part one dealt with the effects of divorce. Today we will focus on the theology of the topic, and part three will look at practical suggestions for the church to minister to teens of divorce.

divorce effect2Jeff Snow has spent the last two decades working in youth and young adult ministry in southern Ontario, Canada, both in a local church and parachurch context. For his Masters thesis, he wrote on the impact of divorce on middle-school, high-school and college youth.

by Jeff Snow

In our last article, we looked at the effects of divorce on teens as spelled out by researchers who have studied the subject. An overarching theme is the sense of loss that teenagers feel in various ways as the result of parental divorce. There are a few ways that those wanting to help teens affected by divorce can help them deal with these losses. We can work to replace the social capital they have lost, giving them the physical resources and support they need to heal and thrive. We can give them psychological support by way of helping them think properly about the divorce and their place in the situation.

Both of these are good and necessary. But divorce brings about more than an economic, intellectual, or psychological loss. Divorce brings with it a sense of loss that strikes much deeper into the soul of a teenager and impacts his life in different ways for years to come. These spiritual and existential losses are important to understand, for they lie at the root of the painful effects of divorce experienced by teens. As those involved in Christian ministry to youth, we are uniquely positioned to speak to these issues and minister to this less tangible sense of loss.

Divorce brings to a teen a loss of their sense of community. The most basic form of community is the family. Divorce pulls children out of that most basic form of community and by doing so, it strikes at the very nature of how God created us to live.

Marriage ripped apartGod Himself, by His very nature, lives in community, a community of mutual love among the three persons of the Trinity. Humans, created in the image of God, are created to live in community. Living in relationship is essential to our humanity.

Genesis 1:27 and 2:23 tell us that both man and woman and their one flesh union reflect the image of God. The early church father John Chrysostom expanded this idea to include children. In his view, “The child is a bridge connecting mother to father, so the three become one flesh.”

Divorce destroys this “one flesh” community of parents and children. Divorce does damage to the image of God as reflected in marriage. Though a teenager may yet find community within which to live, and still within his own being reflect the image of God, he is nonetheless impacted greatly by this loss of community, the loss of love, and the loss of the active model of the image of God in his life represented by his parents.

This loss of community strikes at the very core of the teen’s sense of self, his sense of being. Andrew Root, in his deep yet excellent book The Children of Divorce: The Loss of family as the Loss of Being, writes, “When that community (of mother and father) is destroyed, it is a threat to the child’s being. Divorce, therefore, should be seen as not just the split of a social unit, but the break of the community in which the child’s identity rests.” Root maintains that the effects of divorce cannot be limited to social and psychological factors. The root of the loss inherent in divorce is the loss of being and the subsequent anxiety resulting from that loss.

Sad TeenRoot asks the question, “Can a person be at all, now that those who are responsible in their union for creating that person are no longer together?” He goes on to say that “there is no community more primary than that of mother and father, than those responsible for my being. When their community is not, my being is shaken.”

Divorce brings into question in the mind of the teen his very identity. If existence is found in relationship, then the removal of the key relational community in the life of a teen will impact their identity. The refuge and protection that family is meant to provide is pulled out from under the teen, and the safe harbour in which they can discover who they are no longer exists. They are left to figure out their identity on their own, caught between the two worlds which their parents are creating for themselves rather than for their children.

Ministry to teens of divorce will focus not only on social and psychological needs, but will zero in on issues surrounding identity, who they are in Christ, and their relationship with God as a Father.

A healthy view of God as Father is another area of loss among many teens of divorce. The idea of God being a father to the fatherless (Ps. 68:5) is not a comforting thought if God is going to be like their father. The idea of God as “Abba” and of the teen seeing herself as Abba’s child (Romans 8:14-16) is somewhat of a foreign concept. Yet coming to grips with these concepts and this understanding of God is important in order for the teen to be able to rediscover their identity and realize who they are as children of God. Our job as ministers to youth is to come alongside teens on this journey of rediscovering who they are in Christ and as beloved children of God. For as we noted last time, divorce leaves teens embarking on these journeys of self-discovery primarily alone.

One of the key roles of the parents within the family is the transmission of values and beliefs to the next generation. This was clearly spelled out in Hebrew law:

Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one. Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength. These commandments that I give you today are to be on your hearts. Impress them on your children. Talk about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up. Tie them as symbols on your hands and bind them on your foreheads. Write them on the doorframes of your houses and on your gates.

In an intact family, a community exists where the image of God, where the admonition to love God, where the instruction to follow His commandments, can be taught and modeled through the everyday routine of life. In divorce, that community is fractured. That place of refuge where children can have inculcated upon them the values and beliefs that will point them to a relational experience with God has disappeared. Their view of the image of God, their impression of God as Father, becomes deeply marred.

Instead of embarking on this journey under the watchful tutelage of their parents, children of divorce must create their value systems on their own, while living within the dichotomy of the often conflicting value systems being created by divorcing parents, putting teens in a position they were never meant to fulfill.

In divorce, the line of ancestral obligation is broken, and the teen is left to be what Elizabeth Marquardt calls a “moral forger” who has “to grow up quickly … trying to make sense of adult concepts and choices with the tools of a child.” The teen is left to figure out his belief system and to figure out exactly who God is, what He desires of him, and why that matters, entirely on his own.

search for identityIt is the cumulative effect of these losses which often fly under the radar that creates the anxiety in teens of divorce that breeds many of the issues and behaviours we discussed in our last article. All young people wrestle with the existential questions of “Who am I?” “Where do I belong?” “Is there a God and can He be trusted as a Father?” But in the lives of teens of divorce, this search for identity and security is heightened as they pursue these questions alone, without the community of support that God created for them to have.

These losses breed anxiety in the lives of teens. Anxiety is different from fear. Perhaps that’s why we buy into the “kids are resilient” idea and assume teens will survive divorce relatively unscathed. Most teens of divorce are relatively free from fear. They are, for the most part, physically and economically safe. But that doesn’t mean they are free from an anxiety rooted in a loss of a sense of being and security that permeates their lives and exhibits itself in a myriad of issues.

It is this sense of anxiety that God the Father desires to alleviate as the teen of divorce grows in relationship with and understanding of Abba Father, and with the community He provides for the teen, namely the church. As the reflection of divine community, the church can come alongside the teen of divorce, providing him with a community in which to belong, with people who can remind him who he is in Christ and how the image of God is still evident in him. The church can provide a sanctuary where he can safely formulate a value system that corresponds to what God has created him to be. The church can provide a place where the anxiety caused by dealing with the many losses inherent in divorce can be borne by others in the community, and can be alleviated by bringing the teen in to a clear and healthy relationship with God the Father.

In our third and final installment, we will look at practical ways the church can be a divine community for teens affected by divorce.

to be continued…

August 14, 2015

The Divorce Effect – Part One

This weekend we’re repeating an original, powerful series by Jeff Snow that first ran in August of last year. In 2014, the three parts ran as completed; this time we are running them on consecutive days.

Jeff-SnowJeff Snow has spent the last two decades working in youth and young adult ministry in southern Ontario, Canada, and he has become a friend of our family for much of that time. For his Masters thesis, he wrote on the impact of divorce on middle-school, high-school and college youth. Ever since I heard about this, I have been asking if he could summarize some of his findings for us here.

This is longer than we usually roll here, but it’s important to read every paragraph. This is actually the first of three parts, on the effects of divorce. The second will focus on the theology of the topic, and the third on practical suggestions for the church to minister to teens of divorce. We’ll interlink the parts as they appear here.

divorce effectBe sure to forward the link for today’s post to anyone involved in children’s or student ministry at your church or in your community. Feel free to leave questions in the comments section.

by Jeff Snow

A defining moment in my 16 years of youth ministry came a few years into my stint running a drop-in for unchurched teens. I was driving a number of youth home after drop-in one evening when two of them began a discussion in the back seat. They were listing off a number of their friends, maybe 15 in all, most of whom teachers at the high school would identify as “at-risk” youth. At one point, one of them exclaimed to the other, “Hey! We’re the only two who still live with both our parents!”

From that point onward I began to take more careful notice of the connection between youth who find themselves in trouble in various forms and the fact that a great majority of them do not live with both their biological parents. Those observations eventually led me to a Seminary paper on the effects of divorce on teens and an examination of what we as the Body of Christ can do to minister to these young people.

As in any other area of study, the research sometimes presents contradictory results. While almost all researchers agree that divorce is a traumatic event that has negative effects on children, particularly in the first year after the divorce, there are some researchers that maintain while some youth face ongoing lifelong effects, most youth will emerge relatively well-adjusted after going through a 2-3 year adjustment period.

Divorce LawyerThe problem I see with this assessment is two-fold. For an adult, three years is just a blip on the radar. But for a teenager, three years is half their adolescent life. A teen experiencing a divorce in junior high school will spend half of their formative teen years trying to adjust to having their world turned upside down. It is hard to believe that this will not have a long-lasting impact, at the very least in terms of missing out on the formative development they would have experienced in an intact family.

Secondly, many of these studies focus on a single factor, such as school grades or adult earning potential, as a means of measuring overall health. They also depend widely on statistical analysis and questionnaires. But surveys that rely on interviews with teens of divorce, that rely on actually listening to their stories, paint a much different, somewhat bleaker picture.

Divorce is not a benign event. Many people like to view its impact like that of a cold, which may knock you down for a short time but which you eventually get over. But the effects of divorce on teens is more like a chronic illness. It may lie dormant for a while, but it flares up at the most unexpected times. It never totally goes away. It can only be managed in order to live life to the full.

The effects of divorce on teens can often be very visible in their behaviors, yet often it is unseen. Elizabeth Marquardt wrote an eye-opening book entitled Between Two World: The Inner Lives of Children of Divorce. In another article she writes, “I’ve interviewed dozens of young adults from divorced families … If you gave them a questionnaire and asked, for instance, if they had ever been arrested, dropped out of school or been diagnosed with a mental illness, practically every one of them could respond ‘no’. But that does not mean they were unaffected by their parents’ divorce.”

Divorce is a time of loss for a a death

Divorce is a time of loss for a child…like a death

So, how does divorce impact teens? Most researchers describe divorce as a time of loss for young people. This goes beyond the loss of a parent. They have lost the security of their home. They have lost connection with grandparents and other extended family members. The divorce is often only the first in a long string of losses, as numerous new boyfriends and girlfriends come in and out of their parents’, and their, lives.

Teens lose something as basic as their own room. They end up having to divide their lives in two, splitting their possessions between their parents’ two houses. In the case of step families, teens will end up having to share personal space with step siblings. I still remember a grade eight girl telling me of the difficulty she was experiencing as her mom’s new boyfriend’s family moved in, and she was forced to share her room with someone who was supposed to be a sibling, but who was to her a complete stranger.

Teens experience the effects of what is called “diminished parenting.” As parents deal with their own trauma and grief resulting from the divorce, they have less time and emotional energy to help their children through their grief. As time passes, parents become engrossed in moving on with their lives, and the needs of teens are unconsciously put aside as the parent looks for a new partner. This neglect is almost always unintentional, but the results are the same. The teen does not receive what she needs from the parent, and in fact, at times care-giving goes in the opposite direction as the teen, particularly the teen girl, takes on the role of a support to the parent whose life is falling apart.

Caught in the Middle - DivorceAs the two parents’ worlds begin to move apart, the teen is stuck in the middle, trying to navigate the chasm on their own. They are often faced with divided loyalties, as pressure is put on them by parents to take sides or to report back after custodial visits. They are faced with inconsistent parenting, as each household develops different rules for living. This even impacts teens as they work to develop their own morals and values. In an intact family, the two parents work together to present a united front of morals and values that they present to their children as the way their family is to live. But in families of divorce, the parent’s value systems will invariably start to differ with each passing year, and the adolescent is left to forge their own morals and value systems on their own, at an age where they are not yet able to successfully accomplish this task.

Diminished parenting shows itself in the lack of protection afforded, particularly to teen girls by the non-custodial father. Without a father figure, with less accountability and with decreased monitoring of activities, studies show that girls from families of divorce engage in sexual activity earlier, more often, and often with men older than they are.

Though teens of divorce will achieve grades in school that are close to those from intact families, the issue is in getting them to school and getting them to stay there. Teens of divorce are late for school more often, will skip class more, and get suspended or expelled more than teens from intact families. Teen of divorce are 30% less likely to complete college, as non-custodial parents generally feel that their financial responsibility is over once the child reaches 18, and will rarely provide the funds for college.

Family ConflictSome statistics from the website Rainbows, which is a curriculum for divorce support groups, state that 50-80% of patients treated in Canadian mental health clinics are from separated families, and that teenagers of divorce are three times more likely to be in psychological counseling than those in intact families.

For those of us in the church, it is interesting to see how divorce affects a teen’s spiritual life. Generally, interest in the church and religion will diminish, but interest in spiritual things, even in prayer, will not. One author posits the theory that the increase in divorce may be behind the contention of many under the age of 35 that they are “spiritual but not religious.”

Teens who are heavily involved in church activities will experience a retreat from spiritual things. They will wonder why their prayers were not answered, and why parents who said they loved God and believed in Him would then give up on a marriage which was supposed to be sacred. Teens who are nominally involved in church, however, will go the other way and will turn more towards the church as a coping mechanism.

Broken HomeTeens from families of divorce are more likely to be kicked out of the house, more likely to report not feeling emotionally or physically safe at home, more likely to be abused. Anywhere from one third to one half of girls from families of divorce report being sexually abused as children or teens, most often by stepfathers or stepbrothers. Two leading researchers conclude that living with a stepparent remains the most powerful predictor of severe child abuse.

Though there are many effects of divorce, the one most people will refer to first is economic, and while this must not overshadow the devastating effects that are more hidden, economic factors still cannot be ignored. Families of divorce will experience a decline in income of as much as 50% as compared to their pre-divorce lives.

Though as we said, some researchers see divorce as a temporary setback for young people, Judith Wallerstein, from her 25 years of study, has put forth the idea of “the sleeper effect” of divorce. She maintains that many teens of divorce will emerge from adolescence relatively unscathed, only to have the trauma of the divorce hit them when they reach young adulthood when they begin to seek out their own romantic attachments and consider marriage. Without role models, many teens of divorce find it harder to maintain long-term relationships, and are 2-3 times more likely to get divorced themselves.

Elizabeth Marquardt uses the phrase “happy talk” to describe how most of society talks about divorce and its effects on children and teens. We convince ourselves that teens are resilient and that we don’t really have to worry about them. Marquardt suggests that we do that in order to defend our own adult decisions. In view of the pain that I have seen both in youth ministry practice and in my research, this has to stop. There was a time when adults sacrificed for the sake of the children, not the other way around.

We as adults in the church need to have the courage to dismiss the temptation toward “happy talk.” We in fact need to stop talking and start really listening to the pain and hurt that teens of divorce would be willing to share with us if we only gave them the chance, and to find ways to support them as they attempt to navigate their way through life “between two worlds.”

to be continued…

July 18, 2015

Two Children’s Products Every Adult Should Own

You will learn much from these two products that were originally produced for a much younger audience. If you can’t justify the expense in a kid-less home, rent a kid for the weekend.

Jesus Storybook BibleThe Jesus Storybook Bible: Every Story Whispers His Name by Sally Lloyd-Jones (Zondervan).

We attended a weekend seminar where the speaker walked up to the pulpit carrying only this book. While it doesn’t replace a regular Bible, it shows how the classic stories we read to our children anticipate or foreshadow the coming of Christ. Probably one of the few Children’s Bible story books to receive critical acclaim by theologians.

If you can’t bring yourself to own a kids title, in October the book is releasing in an adult edition as The Story of God’s Love for You.



WhatsInTheBibleSetBuck Denver Asks “What’s In The Bible?” by Phil Vischer (Jellyfish Labs).

Regular listeners to his podcast know that the Veggie Tales creator decided to go beyond the moralism of the video series that made him well-known, and this time around teach the Bible narrative instead.

There are sections of these stories that evidence the input of Christian education and theological specialists. There’s a lot of inane banter between the puppet characters, but in-between, there are lessons for both kids and adults that begin with the first introductory kid-friendly segment about Bible inspiration and interpretation. Each episode is about an hour with a break in the middle.

13 DVDs will set you back, so look for bundles like the one pictured here. A second series is now in production.


Check out an interview with Sally Lloyd-Jones on the Tuesday, June 19th edition of the Eric Metaxas Show, hour #2.

Check out the Phil Vischer Podcast and the What’s In The Bible website.


April 6, 2015

Breast Feeding in the Church Sanctuary

After debating several possibilities, the editorial team at Thinking Out Loud decided to play it safe with some classical art

After debating several possibilities, the editorial team at Thinking Out Loud decided to play it safe with some classical art

It must be an April thing, because last year at this time, we asked the question, Should Couples Hold Hands in Church?

Now we want to look at a question which is often a hot button issue in some churches, that of mothers nursing their babies in the church auditorium or sanctuary. So just to be clear let’s make some definitions:

  • This would be happening as a worship service is in progress
  • We’re assuming a certain amount of modesty is in place; there is an attempt to use discretion and keep everything as covered-up as possible. (Or is that the problem where you attend? Are some moms simply not attempting enough covering?)
  • The woman in question is not sitting in the front row serving as a distraction to the pastor or worship team. (Unless, again, that’s the problem; though it’s hard to believe anyone would actually do this.)
  • There are no children or (especially) teens who might be overly distracted by the very hint of this. (Middle school boys are at an age where boobs are an obsession.)
  • The baby is not fussing, crying or providing any type of audio distraction. (Think of Maggie on The Simpsons.)
  • There isn’t a room for this purpose (ideally with opaqued glass) off to the side of the auditorium.
  • The mom isn’t a visitor (unless that’s specific to a problem with this at your church) so she’s been around the church for years and knows the drill.

Does that cover it? (No pun intended.)

So what do you think? Are there options that would allow for this, or is it a definite “no” as far you’re concerned?

Has there been a shift on this over the last few years in your church?

And where am I gonna find a picture for this article? 

The question, just to be clear, is: Do you consider breastfeeding in church appropriate or inappropriate?  Is this a divisive issue where you worship?


February 14, 2015

Love That is not Recognized: Thoughts for Valentine’s Day

Filed under: children, family, marriage — Tags: , , , — paulthinkingoutloud @ 6:06 am

heart sandwich

I have a favorite lunchtime sandwich consisting of at least two types of lettuce and a mix of tomatoes, peppers and cheese.  My wife makes them for me, and if my schedule required me to need to take a lunch every day, I could eat them every day. Sometimes they’re on a Kaiser bun, and sometimes, they’re on a whole wheat bun like the one in the picture.

Not too long ago, I was having a post-lunch phone call with Ruth and I commented that the way she had cut the bun and placed the sandwich formed a heart shape.

“Did you know that today’s sandwich forms a heart?” I innocently asked.

“Yes…” she replied but there was something implicit in the short reply that I needed to pursue.

“How long have you been doing this?”


And then after a long silence, I said, “I guess I never noticed; I just opened up the package and started eating.”

We have a word for love that is not returned, unrequited love, but what about unnoticed love? What about the person who pours love into a spouse, a child, an elderly parent; and that love simply flies over their head?

Using The Five Love Languages as a template, this would consist of words of affirmation that aren’t truly heard, physical touch that is misinterpreted, gifts that are not appreciated, quality time that isn’t seen as an investment in the other person, or acts of kindness that are written off due to a sense of entitlement or are simply missed as in the example above due to distraction?

Put yourself in my place for a moment. I would have to ask myself, What other little acts of love am I missing? Probably more than just than one. What about similar ‘messages’ from my children, or my co-workers, or people in my church?

But then again, perhaps this is partially about unrequited love. Simply put, we talk a lot about the ‘I love you return.’ Someone says ‘I love you’ and there is an expectation that the context or the relationship is such that the other person will say it back. When they don’t, there’s that awkward silence.

So basically, there’s a situation here where someone has been saying they love me to me every workday at noon, and I wasn’t responding. Instead, I would phone after lunch and say things like ‘Did you remember to pay the water bill?’ or ‘We’re having a really slow day today and what’s making it worse is that…’

So I need to say something like, ‘Thanks for today’s sandwich; I love you, too;’ and by rough estimates, I need to say it about 500 times to make up for past deficiencies.

Happy Valentine’s Day, Ruth.

I love you.

For everyone else, here’s a summary of the love languages from; click the image to read the accompanying article and check out the book by Dr. Gary Chapman where you buy quality Christian books.

love languages

We were also married on Valentine’s Day.  I’ve written about that twice before:

Given the nature of Canadian winters, we celebrate on a 6-month offset, on August 14th.

The weekend link list appears tomorrow



June 10, 2014

When Dropping Your Kids at VBS at a Church Not Your Own

Filed under: children, parenting — Tags: , , , , , — paulthinkingoutloud @ 7:13 am


It’s a dream come true. No kids for a whole week in either the mornings or the afternoons, or perhaps even all day. PLUS, it’s not your home church, so the likelihood of being asked to help is zero. For a haggard mom, does it get any better than this?

Well, before you get too excited, The Grinch That Stole Your Week Off would like to interject a little guilt:

  1. If you sense the church is a bit understaffed, you might want to ask if they need any help; especially if you have the requisite police clearances or certifications.  Maybe not exactly what you had in mind, but…
  2. VBS is a pricey ministry option, even by Children’s ministry standards. Sometime during the week, drop by the church’s office and make a donation to show your appreciation.
  3. Be on the lookout for a mom who is, like you, appears to be not from the host church, and offer to buy her a coffee. Or maybe a mom who is just going through a rough day and could use a sounding board.

Failing the first and third option, relax and take a deep breath, especially if an avalanche of kids is coming to your church next week.

March 24, 2014

Phil Vischer Wraps What’s In The Bible with Revelation

Twice at the beginning, characters in the final of the 26 episodes in the 13-DVD series What’s in the Bible? express their hope that the series will “end with an easy one.” With the Book of Revelation the only possible candidate for a wrap-up, that’s one wish that doesn’t come true.

Being a regular listener (and now viewer) of The Phil Vischer Podcast — a series that’s not for kids — I was curious about how the series would handle two particular books, Genesis and Revelation. My church library was only too obliging when it came to the former, but anxious to view the latter, I arranged with the series’ Canadian distributor to quickly get my hands on video 13 at nominal cost.

What's in the Bible - RevelationThe first episode on the video, number 25, deals with the general epistles: Hebrews, Peter, James and Jude. (They opted not to do a Beatles parody for Jude; to take a sad song and make it better.)(Or something.) Then it was on to final episode 26.

At one point a character remarks on something in the text and says, in effect, ‘that would give kids nightmares.’ But then in the scene that immediately follows, there are mentions of things that could, I suppose, give kids nightmares. (Our kids, raised on Veggie Tales, are in their 20s now, so this no longer becomes a personal concern.) There are some themes in Revelation from which there is no escaping, nor does the video shy away from trying to explain the difference between literal, poetic and apocalyptic writing.

Phil, Buck Denver, Sunday School Lady, the lounge-singer/priest, and the rest of the gang outline some of the basic symbols and imagery. The use of numbers like 4, 7, and 1000 are explained, yet the dimensions city descending from heaven is left at 14,000 miles cubed with no indication if the reference to thousands here simply means ‘a great number’ as it did a few minutes prior, of if it is more literal.

Either way, the plagues and the dragon and the judgments are covered quickly in order to focus on the ending, showing the Bible’s story arc from “garden” to “garden city” and then there is a quick overview of all 26 episodes. Younger children shouldn’t actually end up with nightmares if they have the ‘happy ending’ in view.

What’s in the Bible is the product of much consultation with children’s ministry specialists (an area of specialty now referred to simply as ‘Kidmin.’) I wouldn’t want to try to fault their efforts when presented with challenges like the first and last books of the Bible.

Rather, I think that past the banter with characters — some of which does get tedious from an adult perspective — this is a series that parents should watch with their children. There is much here that I think adults could learn, both in the substance and the presentation, and a few things they may have not heard before, or not heard presented so clearly.

I can’t wait to see what Phil Vischer is up to next!

November 1, 2013

C.S. Lewis: Still Very Much Alive

Filed under: apologetics, books, children — Tags: , , , — paulthinkingoutloud @ 10:16 am

If you die on the same day as someone more famous, you probably don’t make the evening news. Your newspaper obituary will probably be hidden away on a back page, if space allows it to run at all. So it was with C. S. Lewis.

Clive Staples Lewis, after whom the Staples office supply store is named

Clive Staples Lewis, after whom the Staples office supply store chain is named

Much will be made with month about the 50 year anniversary of the passing of U.S. President John F. Kennedy, but only on Christian websites and blogs will you read about Lewis. In some respects, I like to think it keeps him very much alive; that Lewis is at the same time one of our best classic writers and one of our best contemporary writers.

But a blog post a few days ago at Faith Village suggests that Lewis’ appeal is more focused in the United States (and Canada) and less so in his native Britain:

Lewis may be the most popular Christian writer in history, with millions of copies of his books sold, the vast majority in the United States where his influence is far greater than in his native country.

Many readers of the Narnia series have no knowledge of Lewis the Christian apologist, while others who enjoy books like Mere Christianity often forget the connection to the children’s fantasy series.

It’s not uncommon to read other authors where his approach to the claims of Christ are reiterated, or hear them interviews such as this one with U2 frontman Bono:

…Bono imitated C.S. Lewis in Mere Christianity, where Lewis argued that Jesus had to be a lunatic, liar or Lord.

“When people say ‘Good teacher,’ ‘Prophet,’ ‘Really nice guy,’ … this is not how Jesus thought of Himself,” Bono said. “So, you’re left with a challenge in that, which is either Jesus was who He said He was or a complete and utter nut case.”

“And I believe that Jesus was, you know, the Son of God…”

The 50th anniversary of his death has already been remembered in Oxford, England with a September festival,  with guest speakers such as Alister McGrath:

“Lewis is now read by more people today than during his lifetime. What makes people keep reading him?” said McGrath.

Answering his own question, McGrath ranged over the ‘three Lewises’ – Lewis the Oxford don, Lewis the Christian writer, and Lewis the creator of Narnia.

“The latter two are why he is remembered,” said McGrath, a professor of theology at King’s College London.

In addition to The Chronicles of Narnia, Lewis’s best known writings include The Problem of Pain, A Grief Observed and Mere Christianity.

McGrath praised Lewis for his skill in explaining the Christian faith in a way that “made sense” while still managing to “engage the imagination”.

“Lewis does need to be heard,” he said.

On Narnia, McGrath said academics were still unsure as to what motivated Lewis to write a series of children’s books seeing as he did not have children of his own and there was, he asserted, some evidence to suggest he did not particularly like children.

“Maybe Lewis is saying: I wish I had this kind of thing when I was younger, I might not have lost my faith,” he speculated.

We’ll have more on the Jubilee celebration of C. S. Lewis’ life and death later this month.

September 1, 2013

Children’s Worship

In the time and place where I grew up, the songs we sang in Sunday School, Children’s Church and at the Christian camp were quite different from what the adults were singing in the main auditorium at weekend services. Lately there has been more of a convergence of what is heard in the Christian Education wing of the building and what is sung in the main sanctuary (and what is played on Christian radio).

We could argue the merits of this and also the weaknesses, but my point here isn’t to get into a deep debate on the philosophy of Children’s ministry. I think there are obviously some pluses to having Mom, Dad and the kids all being able to sing the same worship songs in the car on the way home; and there are obvious benefits to age-appropriate worship songs, too.

This weekend I went searching on YouTube for an older song I remembered from my past: Lovely Noise. The only versions I could find were kid-min (children’s ministry) versions, but I appreciated the life and energy. Here’s that song and another I listened to more than once:

The same song is also available here. I liked the graphics on it, but preferred the audio on the one I posted.

I’ve always associated the song Undignified with, at best, youth ministry, but I suppose that with the right set up (explanation) you could teach it to older children.

Bonus video: Here’s a kid min version of Trading My Sorrows. I know there are probably more current songs being used in Children’s ministry, but I wanted to simply introduce the genre here with the ones I watched in the last 48 hours.

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