Sunday, March 20, 2011


One of the blessings and curses of our modern era is the overwhelming abundance of materials available for children’s ministry. Much of it is creative, innovative, and fun. But let’s face it: some of it is like a chocolate Easter bunny…very appealing on the outside, but nothing really on the inside.

In my humble opinion, What's In the Bible by Phil Vischer and Theo by Whitestone Media's Michael Joens represent two of the most significant resource developments in children's ministry in the last couple of years. They are fun and entertaining, to be sure, but you will not find any hollow recesses. Instead, under their whimsical entertainment is something that few children’s ministry resources have attempted to do: educate children in Bible survey and (gulp) theology!

Take Mr. Vischer’s What’s In the Bible for instance. This video series features Buck Denver and the other puppet stars of his popular Jelly Telly webcast as they examine each book of the Bible. The kids love the silly characters and their interactions. And there are just enough grown up level jokes to keep the parents tuned in. But in between the laughter and the memorable songs, the viewer is led through a discussion of the writing and major themes of each book. Strip away the puppets, humor, and music, and you’d have the syllabus for an “Introduction to the Old Testament” course.

The newest entry in the dvd market is Theo, a kindly old man who lives in a cottage with two pesky mice. I received a preview dvd at a conference and showed it to some kids at our church. It was an instant hit! The animation is superb and the mice, who serve as the comic foils and unwitting object lessons, bring in the visual chuckles that keep kids entertained. The style is reminiscent of the old McGee and Me and Adventures in Odyssey (which is no coincidence, since creator Michael Joens produced and directed both). But again, the method of fun animation is a means to teach systematic theology. In this day when adult church goers tend to recoil at the very word “theology,” the Theo series is like a breath of fresh air.

Now both What’s In the Bible and Theo have their weaknesses (and I’m sure they have their critics). Sometimes the narrative portions of the Jelly Telly gang are a little long. A couple of times, as Phil was explaining something, I wanted to raise my hand and ask a question challenging his statement. But the fact that I wanted to engage on an intellectual level shows that the series is not mere fluff. As for Theo, I only have the sample to work with, but the segments were very short, making me wonder if there is more (a full scale curriculum is in the works). Appropriate parental interaction is encouraged, not that there is anything bad in either series, but because there is so much that is good (plus doesn’t every parent long to learn about soteriology alongside their six year old?).

What’s in the Bible has been on shelves for about a year or so. I don’t know (as of today) if Theo is in wide release yet, but keep checking.

If only my professors in college taught like this…..

1 comment:

  1. Thank you so much for sharing brief reviews on both 'Theo' and 'What's in the Bible'. I'm on the hunt for new children's ministry curriculum, books, and resources, and these two were ones that I was considering. Your reviews have definitely helped me make my decision. I'm going to go with my first instinct, which was to go with both 'Theo' and 'What's in the Bible'. Thanks again for helping make my decision a little easier.