Blog Archives

Can I Tell You a Story?

Just like the post below, I believe in the power of a story to teach. I’ve got to admit that as a young parent, it is easy to default to the “lecture” format, but I’ve found that telling a story, whether real or make-believe, has been very powerfully effective. My friend, Jesse Smith, shares some great insights in “Once Upon a Time”:

There once was a little boy…
Long, long ago in a galaxy far, far way…
It was a dark and stormy night…

We all recognize these beginning, they are popular beginnings for a story. They immediately peak our interest, there’s something coming, something interesting. Stories have power – they break down barriers, open our hearts, and get us thinking.

As a father, I’ve found that story is one of the best, if not the most powerful, tool I have. When my children have added to the rules, tries to pit mom against dad, or any number of things they’ve often heard a story. Sometimes it’s a story from the Bible and other times its from another source (or just made up) but the message is almost always clarified by story.


It’s not a lecture
As parents we want our children to not only understand the rules but the reason for those rules. Often our response to an infraction is overly wordy. At a time when the child just wants to escape your wrath a lecture falls on deaf ears – they just want out. A story opens a new world, a place to escape and a place where they have some control.

In a story there is a chance to explore both sides, a place to talk about solutions – a place for discussion.

When we have a culture of story telling, our children not only hear stories when there is a problem, but all the time. Stories stick with us and when a similar situation occurs, children have a better idea of what will happen as a result of their choices. They can connect to the characters and that starts of joruney oof wanting to model for others.

Stories are natural
Simply put, we’re wired to remember stories. Think about how easy it is for them (or you) to quote their favorite movie or show. They can remember what Blue weeks ago said but not what Mom said 7 seconds ago because stories naturally connect.

A Place to Explore
Stories promote thinking. They are a safe place to think about what loss feels like or what it means for a child to be disabled. Children can easily explore their emotions and behaviors without serious consequence.

If you’re looking for a place to start, I suggest that you pick up a few story books from your library and have a bed time story. If you feel like they might be too old for a bed time story, read the books yourself. Think about how the story flows so that you can begin to form your own stories so you don’t sound like you’re lecturing all the time.

Then, when you’re ready to go to a new level, pick up The Jesus Storybook Bible. This is, by far, the best storybook bible that I’ve read. It mad me cry more than once. It’s full of great models for our children and could easily become your child’s favorite book.

Another plus is that it’s more theologically sound than many storybook bibles out there. It’s not simply a collection of stories; it’s an overview of the primary theme of scripture.

How could you use stories in your home?

via Orange Fathers


Wisdom? (sermon)

This past Wednesday, May 25, 2011, I spoke at Hayward High School’s Baccalaureate Service. The theme was “Wisdom?” and it was on 1 Corinthians 1:18-25.

During the talk, I used an object lesson with a rope, which just happened to be the school colors! (actually it was an extra yellow rope from our playground system we recently got at the church, with some black duct tape on the ends to keep it from fraying!).

Wisdom? (44.71kb, pdf)

Discipline in Ministry

I am really passionate about “discipline” in ministry. To me (and I think to God), discipline (especially to children and youth) is essential to their spiritual formation. When a student is in trouble, I think their heart is ripe and fertile soil for a “teachable moment.” In other words, discipline equals discipleship.

In a ministry setting, do all the children and youth ministry volunteers have this same perspective? This blog post does a great job consolidating my thoughts:

One of the first things we share with a new volunteerin our Children’s Ministry is our philosophy on discipline in the classroom. It’s really very simple: “We believe that every child has the right to hear the Gospel uninterrupted.” What do we mean by that? Well, first of all we believe that what we are sharing and teaching is incredibly important. Second, we want every child to hear the message. That means we cannot allow one child to prevent others from receiving the message.

Each Sunday morning when I stand before our kids in our large group meeting time I share the same statement: “We have only three rules in Kid’s View and we want you to know all three rules:

Rule Number 1 – Remember why we are here. We are here to meet with others and meet with God.

Rule Number 2 – When someone on stage is speaking you are to be listening. Which means you would not be talking.

Rule Number 3 – Have Fun! If we remember Rule #1 and we practice Rule #2 we will have a great time together.”

Again, I make these same statements every Sunday as a reminder to our kids. They know them so well that they shout the last word of each statement as I say it. Our desire is for every child to hear the message and enjoy their time in Kid’s View. The three simple rules go a long way to help that goal be accomplished.

We also have the Three R’s as our steps for correction when a child does choose to misbehave:

R – Request the behavior stop.

R – Reseat the child in a different area if the behavior continues.

R – Remove the child from the classroom after the first two steps if necessary.

If a child has to be removed the parent is called to the classroom. Rarely does the third R become necessary. Our goal is for every child to hear the Gospel uninterrupted and for them to enjoy their time in Kid’s View!

via CM Buzz

Shine Like Stars (sermon)

This past Sunday, May 22, 2011, I was given the opportunity to preach @ Hayward Wesleyan. Our small group had been studying Philippians this past year and we ended our year with reviewing what we learned and wanted to consolidate our thoughts into a letter. I was tasked to write the letter and I ended up combining it with the sermon this past Sunday, entitled: “Shine Like Stars.”

“Shine Like Stars” manuscript (76.3kb, pdf)
“Shine Like Stars” audio (8.11mb, mp3)
“To Live is Christ” by Trip Lee | Rap on Philippians
Best Buy | Buy Back Program – “Outdated World”
Survivor | Mike Chiesl’s Selfless Act

More is Caught than Taught

I was driving down Railroad Street in Hayward, WI the other day and a truck with a camper trailer pulled out in front of me between Marketplace Foods and McDonalds and made me stop short.

Now obviously according to the generally accepted etiquette of civilized driving, one does not make another vehicle wait or stop short when pulling an extra large camper trailer. This over-size towing package should wait patiently until the road and other vehicles are clear before embarking on its destination.

Well this obstruction did not wait and it affected my driving attitude for a brief second. I had my two girls in the car when this happened (and, to be honest, wasn’t as dramatic as I’m making it out to be). Due to Hayward being a tourist/vacation destination for many people, us locals get used to city drivers and vacationers on our roads and we usually have to tolerate their erratic driving during the summer months.

Here’s what I thought: “This guy (or lady) just cut me off! How dare they?!” Then I paused, realized it was a non-local, and proceeded to wait patiently and choose to be cordial rather than annoyed (any average driver knows this is difficult, right?).

My next  was this: “If I were to scream and yell or mutter under my breath about what I feel about what this person just did, my girls will hear this and they will learn something. They will learn that when you are cut off by another vehicle in the car it is okay to call the other driver an ‘idiot’ or ‘stupid’ or ‘crazy’ or ‘inconsiderate’ (of course, which all might be true!). But is this what I want to teach my kids about how to be like Jesus in our world? No.”

Often what our kids learn from us is our responses to things that happen in our lives. The difficult part to play as a parent is being aware (all the time) of our responses–holy or unholy. Of course, my wife Amanda and I try to verbally teach our kids good, holy responses, but those lessons pale in comparison to the things they learn when we are not “consciously” teaching… like when we are driving down Railroad Street and other cars pull out in front of us. The old adage is true: “more is caught than taught.”

What are your kids “catching” from you? Have you ever thought about that? What do other people “catch” from how you live your life as a person who follows Jesus?

The Coffee Cup is Teaching

Sari and Macie were playing a game (Hungry Hippos, I think) and they started to fight about it. Amanda stepped in and told Sari that she needed to teach Macie how to play so she wouldn’t get frustrated. At this point in the intervention, Sari was exasperated and she exclaimed to her mother: “I don’t want to teach Macie! I don’t want to be a teacher!!”

I was a silent witness to these events from another room. I called to Sari and asked her to visit me, which she reluctantly did, assuming, rightly so, that she would be in trouble for her outburst and unwillingness to cooperate with her sister and mother.

I had a cup of coffee in my hand and I set it down on a table. I asked Sari to watch what I was doing for a second. I reached down to the coffee cup, grabbed it by its handle, brought it to my mouth, took a slow and deliberate sip, then proceeded to set it back down on the table. I asked her what I had just done. She replied, “You drank some of your coffee.” I pressed her further, “How did I drink my coffee?”

I continued: “I grabbed it by the handle, right? Why? [pause] Because a coffee cup holds hot coffee and it’s probably not a good idea to hold it by the cup when it is really hot, right? Did I hold it by the lip/rim of the cup? Why? [pause] Because I could drop it like that, right?”

I think Sari was beginning to catch on…

“Did I gulp the coffee fast or sip it slowly? Why? [pause] Because coffee is hot and it could hurt my mouth if I drank it fast, so I drink it slow, right?”

Dad: “Did I just teach you how to drink coffee?” Sari nods. “Did I have to say anything to you or did you just watch me?” Sari: “I just watched.” Dad: “Can you teach Macie stuff by playing games the right way and showing her how it’s done?” Sari grins. “Maybe you can teach Macie about how to act appropriately and not throw fits by you acting appropriately and not throwing fits. Can you do that?” Sari: “Yes, Daddy.”

Dad: “Now go teach your sister stuff…”

I like coffee. Amanda and I drink it every morning. I don’t think I’ll ever forget that short little lesson about what we do and who we are is on display to everyone all the time. We are always teaching, aren’t we? We are constantly teaching our kids, our siblings, our spouses, our coworkers, our employees, our friends, our customers, even strangers, and we don’t even know it. What are you teaching people today?

Go ahead, have another cup of coffee…

Prescriptive & Descriptive

This past Sunday in Main Street, the story of the week was “The Conspiracy of Absalom.” What precipitated Absalom’s nefarious coup against his father, King David?

It’s a little rated “R”. You see, Amnon, one of David’s sons was “in love” with his half-sister, Tamar (one of David’s daughters). Amnon pretended to be sick all in a ploy to get his father to invite Tamar in to take care of him. When he was alone with her, Amnon forced himself on his sister. After the despicable act, Amnon was filled with hatred toward Tamar – “as much hatred after as he had love before.”

Enter Absalom. Absalom was Tamar’s full brother (they had the same mom). Absalom took care of his sister because his father did nothing. Absalom absolved himself to kill Amnon for what he had done. Two years later Absalom had his revenge on Amnon, and fled the country. Three years later he returned to Jerusalem and began to woo his fellow countrymen into following him, then later declared himself king while his father fled.

Teaching in Main Street get’s a little tricky when we get to stories like these. The audience is filled with grades 1-6 students. So one has to approach stories like this with great care and wisdom. Feel free to watch the video of how I navigated this story with the large group.

I regularly teach the 5th and 6th grade boys, and this audience we can get in to the “trickier” parts of the story. After the large group teaching time, I sat down with the boys and we read out of the Bible what precipitated Absalom’s conspiracy (particularly the part about Amnon and Tamar). The boys were shocked. I asked them what they would tell their parents when they were asked: “What did you learn in Main Street today?” The boys didn’t know what to say.

I then shared with them the difference between prescriptive and descriptive elements of the biblical text. “What does prescription mean?” They knew this one. “Like medicine.” “Yep,” I said. “It helps you out, doesn’t it? Doctor prescribes you a solution to your problem and it will, hopefully, work out for you.”

“Does the Bible want you to rape your sister? Is this a prescription?” They knew the answer to this one as well: “No.”

“What does description mean?” This one confused them for a second until I shorted the word to describe. “Oh,” they said, “to dictate or share the unique qualities of a particular entity.” Okay, they didn’t say that exactly, but something like that! I had one of the students stand up and we described his appearance. They understood.

Then I gave them a scenario:

What if a person after reading the story of Amnon and Tamar proceeds to rape his sister. He is caught by the appropriate authorities after an investigation finds sufficient evidence for a trial. The perpetrator declines a lawyer because he wants to defend himself. At the trial, the defendant defends himself by reading 2 Samuel 13. He says, quite emphatically: ‘The Bible said it was okay!’

The Judge, dumbfounded, looks on the defendant with pity and says: ‘You idiot! Are you serious?!’

I then asked the 5th and 6th grade boys: “Did this guy get his prescriptive and descriptive mixed up?” Again, the young men get it: “Of course,” they confidently say, “the Bible isn’t telling us to do these things, it’s describing an unfortunate event that occurred that led to other unfortunate things that occurred.”

I smiled with pride. Lesson learned. We then went on to discuss how we can tell when a passage of Scripture is descriptive or prescriptive. We particularly tried to discern what might be prescriptive in such a traumatic story as the rape of Tamar.

These young men are really smart!

Books of the Bible | First Ten (video)

This past Wednesday @ msy YOUTH, we did a blitzkrieg through the first ten books of the Bible: Genesis through 2 Samuel. We used a Skit Guy video entitled: “The Skinny on the Bible” to introduce the evening, then we did 5 books at a time. We showed a video segment from JellyTelly for each of the books of the Bible. The videos are meant for a younger audience, so I was pushing the envelope a little using them with middle school students, but it worked out great. The videos did a great job of keeping their interest as we plowed through 10 of them.

While the students were watching the videos they had to write down some key words for each book of the Bible. After we did the first 5, then we had students go and write some of those key words on posterboard that we had taped around the room, one for each of the 10 books of the Bible. Then the students watched the second set of 5, the went and wrote on the posterboards. It was a neat exercise that took up our entire programming time, but it worked remarkably well.

Some of the students realized their names came from the Bible. It was funny, because after all the students wrote on the various posterboards, in order to personalize things, we had them pick one book of the Bible that was their favorite (of the 10 we went through) and write their name (and circle it, so it was different that the key words) on the posterboards. Students whose names were in certain books ended up putting their name on that one!

Here are the links to the JellyTelly videos on YouTube:

Jesus in Every Book of the Bible (video)

to make God’s kind of world?

@ msy YOUTH this past school year, we have been thinking through the statement:

“The Bible is about God continually working to fix this world through his kind of special people in order to make his kind of world.”

We’ve interacted with this statement by walking ourselves through Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, Deuteronomy, Joshua, Judges, Ruth and 1 Samuel. We learned how humanity came about, fell into sin, and needed to be redeemed. God started his redemption plan through his covenant with Abraham, which initiated the “special people of God” or his representatives on earth to show the world what he was like. God was going to “fix” this world through his special representatives in order to re-make his world.

This has been somewhat heady for middle school students, though we have had fun in the process. Right before the Christmas break we talked about how the author of Samuel was comparing and contrasting the boy Samuel with Eli’s boys, Hophni & Phinehas. It was an either or kind of thing.

I thought about the simplicity of that, and, conversely, the complexity of what we’ve been doing so far. I felt like we needed to take a sort of time-out to talk through what “God’s kind of world” looked like.

I came across a series entitled “Two-Faced” from for middle school students. This series perfectly fit the simplicity of explaining what “God’s kind of world” looked like. And to this point we have done the 3 out of the 4 lessons so far.

As you can see from the graphic at the beginning of this post, we have two posters hung at the front of our room. One is labeled “Flesh” while the other is labeled “Spirit”.

The first lesson brought the topic of gossiping vs. encouraging (flesh vs. spirit), the second talked about the issue of stealing vs. giving (selfishness vs. generosity), and the third relayed the two opposing notions of lying and truth-telling.

These last 3 Wednesday night conversations have really brought some concrete and clearly labeled adjectives to what “God’s kind of world” looks like.

“The Bible”

This year in Middle School Youth (msy YOUTH) on Wednesday evenings, we have been walking through the stories of the Bible… trying to unpack the statement above about God, his plan to fix this world using his particular kind of special people in order to make (or remake) his kind of world.

We’ve created and displayed different elements to relay the stories of the Bible in “big picture” kind of ways because it is a daunting task to try and make it through the WHOLE Bible in one calendar school year. I’ve been trying to record and document and link the different elements as we do them. This cataloguing can be found @ under the section called: THE BIBLE.

What I wanted to share is the motions that we have been doing to remember the stories as we run through the stories. After each story we create a sort of kinetic motion that will help us remember and review. Here they are:

Abraham – God’s Promise to FIX Humanity

@ msy YOUTH (that’s middle school YOUTH group @ hayward wesleyan) a couple of weeks ago, we talked about Abraham and God starting “to fix this world” back to “his kind of world” – the Garden (before humanity messed it up). God picked a man–Abraham–and promised to make a special people out of him (whose vocation as a people would be to show the world what God is like), give his people a special place to live (land of Canaan, crossroads of the known world at the time), and give his presence to them. I illustrated this story and the Abrahamic Covenant using one of Sari’s beautiful creations.

Sari loves to color. And she’s really good. It’s a beautiful creation. Unique to Sari and perfect. Sari’s picture is like God’s creation–unique to him and perfect. But humanity (Adam and Eve) tore creation apart when they chose to follow themselves rather than God.

Maybe God had some options with this “wrecking” of his creation. He could destroy it, scrap it, and start over with something else. He could erase humanity and rework things. Who knows… but what we do know is that instead of wiping us out, he chose to “fix” us.  He chose to “redeem” humanity. And his plan sought to create a special people, put them in a special/intentional place, and bind his presence with them–all through Abraham. This plan had its intent to bring the broken created world (humans included) back into right relationship with its creator–God. Back to God’s kind of world.

The picture doesn’t really look like the original creation does it? It’s got a rip and some band-aids holding it together. The Abrahamic Covenant was just the beginning of God’s redemptive/fixing plan–albeit a very important beginning. God has narrowed his focus from a worldwide engagement with humanity (Genesis 4-11) to one man–Abraham–and is going to begin his work on broken humanity.

Here is msy YOUTH’s working statement about the Bible: “The Bible is about God continually working to fix this world through his kind of special people in order to make his kind of world.”

Achan’s Sin and the Battle of Ai (story & video)

y2_w03 - Achan's Sin and the Battle of Ai

Things had been going so well for Joshua and the Israelites. They had conquered a mighty city (Jericho) by walking around the city and obeying the LORD! It seemed like nothing could stop them. The only thing that could stop them was SIN.

Achan, an Israelite man, decided to take some things from Jericho (something that the LORD explicitly told them NOT to do). Achan hid these things in his tent (a robe, some silver and a wedge of gold). When Joshua sent some soldiers to defeat the next city, Ai, they were defeated and 36 people died. The Israelites were dismayed and wondered why they didn’t win. The LORD told them that they had sinned. Well, they eventually found out it was Achan. The community stoned Achan and his family and all of his possessions.

Then the Israelites went on to defeat the city of Ai using an ambush.

Read Joshua 7:1 – 8:35
source Vimeo

Main Street | Sunday, September 19, 2010 | Year 2 – Week 3 | Achan’s Sin and the Battle of Ai

Rahab and the Spies (video)

Main Street | Sunday, September 5, 2010 | Year 2 – Week 1 | Rahab and the Spies

Learning the Ten Commandments

This past Sunday in Main Street (grades 1-6), the story was covering the second half of Exodus: Israelite complaining, receiving the Law (10 Commandments) and their charter as a nation, etc. Kathy Baker talked the students through the various stories quite well. Then we put the 10 Commandments up on the screen and had the students write them down on a piece of paper.

Our goal was for the students to memorize the 10 Commandments. I come across students all the time that think they know what the 10 Commandments are, but actually don’t really know them. But when working with kids on a Sunday morning, how do you get them motivated to learn/memorize 10 Commandments? Prizes.

In our storage room, I’ve got two large Rubbermaid containers filled with “prizes”, more like junk to me, but to kids, unspeakable treasures.  I dumped those containers of prizes on the stage and spread them out while I watched their eyes go wide and their mouths drop.  “If you can recite the 10 Commandments from memory to another leader this morning before Main Street is over,” I told them, “You can pick a prize off the stage.” Their reaction was like winning the lottery! It really motivated them to memorize the 10 Commandments!

I was working with about 3 incoming 1st graders.  These kids are young, but they did it! They wanted the prizes so bad that they struggled to do it and they did! It was fun to see the students having fun while they were tackling something that is difficult to do.