Monday, February 15, 2010


As the Valentine / President's Day weekend drew near, an opportunity presented itself to take a weekend trip up the Oregon coast. Unfortunately, the main reason for traveling was crushed three days before we were to leave. However, since my wife's mother had already put out some non-refundable coinage on what the owner described as a "funky cabin near the ocean", we decided to go anyway.

I'm glad we did.

Our destination was Newport, a charming town on the central Oregon coast. The "funky cabin" was, in reality, a charming little two bedroom cottage on the outside edge of the hotel's parking lot. It was a little run-down, but cozy and clean (there was no internet access however!). This was headquarters for the weekend.

The "funky" cabin

Yaquina Head Lighthouse

Our first destination was the famous Yaquina Head Lighthouse. It was a cloudy day, with the surf roaring and pounding on the rocks below. It brought home the hard and lonely job the lighthouse keepers must have faced in providing safety to sailors during such storms (the old song "If It Wasn't for the Lighthouse" kept going through my mind).
Stormy seas
The next day, we visited the sister lighthouse at Yaquina Bay. It was closed to visitors at the time we visited, but the location offered a great view of the bridge that crosses Newport.
Yaquina Bay Lighthouse
Newport bridge

Our final destination over the weekend was the Oregon Coast Aquarium. There we saw sea otters teasing and playing with the visitors, feeding time for the sea lions, and a tunnel that offered a near 360 degree view of sea life, including sharks. There was even a "petting zoo" of sorts that allowed visitors to reach out and touch various types of sea life.


Feeding time

You otter have seen this guy playing around

Even though our original reason for going was dashed to pieces, it was still nice to get away and just be a family (well, minus my youngest daughter, who was unable to come). As reality reasserted itself when we walked in the door, we determined to squeeze a little more relaxation in before work tomorrow.

Wednesday, February 10, 2010


I have not arrived to the level of “expert” in children’s ministry. I’ve been doing children’s ministry in my current church for nearly fifteen years, but I still consider myself a student. There are those who are more knowledgeable in the field who could probably spot a dozen or more flaws in how we do things. That’s okay, because I’m learning. I devour the blogs and books of my brothers and sisters God is using in children’s ministry. I’ve had the honor of trading tweets with many of them on Twitter (please tell me you understood what I just typed!). I’ve attended local and national conferences to equip, inspire, and motivate myself in this ministry. Just as I kind of shake my head at some of the things I did when I started off in children’s ministry, I will likely shake my head again at some of the things I’m doing now.

When I started doing children’s ministry at my current church, there was a young couple who was surprised. You see, even though I had been involved in various forms of children’s ministry starting in high school, my professional ministry background was with adults. I was a senior pastor at two small churches and I was used to teaching grown-ups. So this couple, who had previously served in the children’s department at a mega-church in California, took me aside in the spirit of Christian love and said, “Kids today are not going to sit for a sermon. You can’t reach them with dull theology. They need excitement and fun and activity.” Which was their way of telling me that they were afraid I would handle kids like I handled adults.

So I strove to be innovative and fun. I introduced things that pushed the envelope of what a “children’s ministry” was all about. It was certainly not the flash-bang approach of modern kid’s ministry; in fact, I was only beginning to learn what modern kid’s ministry was supposed to be. But it was a start. And we were starting to get people’s attention. That’s when another wise person approached me in the spirit of Christian love and said, “You don’t need to do all this fancy stuff. All you need to do is give them Jesus. Pay attention to them and open up the Word and they’ll respond. “

Feeling so much of this Christian love, I pondered what the gentleman had told me. Was I selling out the birthright of meaningful children’s work for a bowlful of pizzazz? I went through a time of deep introspection, wondering if we really needed to scale down the delivery vehicle and concentrate more on instilling a more serious understanding of the Christian life to these kids.

It was then that someone approached me and said, “Tim, you need to find some people who can add ‘Wow’ to your program.” Sigh. And thus it continues.

Since then, I’ve come to a basic understanding and acceptance of what we do. It comes down to two fundamental principles:
1) The Word of God is core and does not change. It is the heartbeat of what we do.
2) Everything else is up for grabs.

In other words, the message doesn’t change, but the method does. The medium does. The delivery system does. And when I wrapped my brain around this concept, it became easier to ride the wave of children’s ministry programming.

Are we there yet? Nope. I love the testimonies of children’s workers that talk about the dynamic worship, the spiritual depth, and the life-altering decisions during children’s church. I truly rejoice in that. But then I look at my 4th & 5th grade boys who sit with their arms crossed, refusing to participate, daring me to engage them. I think of the little girl in back who loudly complains, “This is boring” (a phrase which always feels like a body blow whenever I hear it). And I start to wonder, “maybe more bling, maybe more ‘wow’, maybe more pizzazz would turn this around.”

But then one of those boys approaches me afterwards and asks if I would pray for his grandmother who is dying. And three others profess their desire to let Jesus be Lord of all of their life. And when a mom asks the bored little girl what she liked best about the service, she says, “The songs and the video and Teacher Tim was silly.”

Fifteen years ago, I didn’t even own a video camera. Now we’re shooting and editing some of our own stuff. We still don't have a kids' praise band, but we do have kid-centered music dvd's which are miles ahead of trying to croon out an acapella chorus from the 70's. We won't be mistaken for being "cutting edge", but we're still pushing to be fun & innovative with enough bling and pizzazz to drive home the real reason we're there: the Gospel. The next fifteen years will be bright.

Tuesday, February 02, 2010


I do not own a cell phone.

There! I said it (twice, if you count the title). I don’t own a cell phone (hey, it’s getting easier to say).

Before you jump to conclusions as to why I do not own a cell phone, let’s get a few things clear:

1. I am not a techno-phobe. In fact, I love and embrace technology. I have computers at home and at work, software to make my tasks easier, and enough rudimentary knowledge that I can figure out most applications.

2. I am not anti-social. I am on Twitter (TeacherTim) and MySpace and Facebook and CMConnect and a couple of others. The information superhighway has made it easier to network and connect with old friends and new alike. I enjoy and have been enriched by my online encounters.

3. I will likely own a cell phone in the future. I’m not against cell phones. Some of my best friends own cell phones (okay, all of my best friends own cell phones).

So now that we’ve eliminated the “scared and distrustful of cell phones” arguments, what are the real reasons why I’ve never gotten a cell phone:

1. Cost. Sorry, but price is a factor. Oh, sure, I know I can get a brand new phone for free or practically nothing if I sign up for a great plan. But plans are pricey. By the time I read through the fine print, I’m racking up money that could be better spent on a dinner out with the missus or an out-patient procedure. I don’t know how people with low or no income manage to have cell phones. It’s a budget-strainer for us.

2. Necessity. Confession time: I used to have a cell phone. I inherited a “pay-as-you-go” phone from someone who upgraded to a fancier unit with a great (read: “more expensive”) plan. And it was simple: all I had to do was “top it off” regularly.
During the six months I had the phone, I believe I made two phone calls and received one. Meanwhile, the money in my “top off” account slowly dwindled until I got an urgent message on my cell, email, and home phone reminding me to “top it off” again. So I topped it off. And over days and weeks of not using it, my phone balance would continue to fade into oblivion until I put more money into it.
The conclusion was simple: why keep throwing money into a phone that I never used? So I quit using it. The company eventually quit reminding me to “top it off.”

3. Necessity 2. Do I need to be accessible 24/7? I am a children’s pastor, true. But rarely has a need arisen in which I had to be tracked down instantaneously. I’m still as busy as ever, but those who need to get a hold of me know how to get a hold of me. And if I’m not there, just leave a message or drop me an email or dm me on Twitter. After all, if I was driving, in a theatre, or in a church service, you’d have to wait for me to retrieve a message anyway.

4. Inconvenience: I remember the days of television antennas that, through diverse contortions and configurations, had to be adjusted for the best picture. I’ve seen people in grocery stores go through similar gymnastics with the ubiquitous “Can you hear me now?” catchphrase echoing up and down the aisle. I don’t want to get to the good part of a conversation only to lose the connection.

As I mentioned above, I will likely own a cell phone one day. As my wife and I have discussed, there are some great reasons to own a cell phone:

1. Accessibility: True, I rarely need to be reached right away, but there are times when I’ve forgotten to put something on the shopping list and my mental telepathy to my wife doesn’t reach. It would be nice to simply call her up. Ditto with schedule changes or last minute visits.

2. Emergencies: The best reason for a cell phone is for the unexpected crises that come in our lives. No debate here.

3. Convenience: I was on my way to do a wedding at a residence, but I got lost. It would have been nice to be able to call the family and ask for directions.

4. Instant communication: As a computer-based Twitterer, I often have to wait until a break in my schedule or time at home in order to update my friends on what I’m doing at the moment. I have long admired my friends who write things like, “Stuck behind a rock waiting to shoot my paintball rifle” or “The speaker just made an incredible point.” Being able to update everyone in real time would be fun.

5. Camera: Not sure I need everything that the modern cell phone has to offer, but there are times I just want to take a picture, upload it, and write a funny caption like “Eating at a restaurant with BibleMan and the waiter can’t tell us apart LOL”

What do I want in a cell phone?

1. Good coverage so I don’t have to be one of those people in the hardware store who is always saying, “I’m losing you….wait….can you hear me now?…yeah, okay…wait….no, hold it, I’m losing you….”

2. Unlimited texting abilities with one of those normal looking keyboards.

3. Free calls to and from friends and family, since those are the only calls I make anyway.

4. Camera.

5. Something that doesn’t cost a lot of money to maintain

Recommendations? Rebuttals? Free offers?

Stay tuned for updates.