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…..

Friday, March 18, 2011


Just to give you a flavor of the Children's Pastors' Conference, our friends at INCM just uploaded the official San Diego CPC Highlight Video. Not much to say about the video, so enjoy
If the video does not play correctly, just follow this link:

Thursday, March 17, 2011


Another full day of learning, inspiration, and refreshment here at the Children's Pastor's Conference. I enjoy some of the games they play here, like this one called, "Retrieve the Coconut!" Just kidding.

Seriously, there is a lot of fun and laughter here, punctuated by a depth of worship and challenge that is hard to describe. So I thought I would share some "nuggets in photos":

This is the Justin Graves Band, an incredibly talented dad, mom, and 5 year old daughter who ministered during the lunch time Ministry Showcase. Also performing in the Showcase was Jana Alayra, whose cd's are popular within our children's ministry.
The Resource Center is always a beehive of activity. Sure, the people who exhibit there want to sell products. But what is such a blessing is that they are also there to answer questions, give insights, help clarify thoughts, and so on. It's not just material resources, but information and idea resources. Plus it's one of the main social hubs of the conference. You can feel the energy when you go there.

Group Publishing always has an impressive layout.

Awana (which recently re-launched at our church) is a regular at CPC But one of the neatest things about CPC is the opportunity to re-connect with friends and colleagues in the ministry. Last year, I failed to get a picture of Mike and Karen Pucket, with Amazing Truth Ministries. The Puckets are very talented illusionists who use their skills to point people to the Savior. My wife and I attended college with Mike and Karen, so it was good to see them again at CPC and to FINALLY get a picture.
Old friends, new friends, new ideas, new's all part of the package of CPC.

Wednesday, March 16, 2011


I just returned from Dinner on the Town. It was a wonderful dinner, shared at a table with a another children's minister from my home state of Colorado. I didn't get done in time to attend the Kidology gathering, which was going to be held in the parking lot of the Fashion Valley Mall (get a map of San Diego if you want to know where all this is!), but knowing my friends at Kidology, it was probably a great time.

Today was a day of challenge, laughter, and a tear or two. The workshops I attended were top-notch, with practical ideas and challenges to take back with me. The general sessions were incredible. Britt Merrick spoke in the morning about how Christ needs to be our Source. Some of the nuggets he shared were:
"Either Christ is everything or He is nothing."
"We are not loved because we are valuable; we are valuable because we are loved."
"Anything that pushes us toward Christ is actual gain."

Our late afternoon session featured Miles McPherson. With humor and straightforward talk, he laid out for us five elements of God's plan: Preparation, Purpose, Pain, Power, and Passion.

And then there was the incredible singing talent of Jana Alayra. In the world of children's ministry, she is one of the shining stars. But she switched gears in our conference to lead us in worship with more "grown up" style songs that helped us focus on the greatness and goodness of our God.

So now I'm going back to the Resource Center to a) pick up dessert and b) see if I can find the next "can't live without it" resource for our children's ministry. As the old saying goes, "having a great time, wish you were here."

Tuesday, March 15, 2011


Just a brief blog entry before heading to bed. Have you ever seen the effects of a few sticks of explosive on a pile of old dead wood? That's about how I'd describe tonight's opening session concert entitled "Family Fight Night". No, it wasn't a fight of a family, but rather a fight for the family. I will not go into details as to the different elements of the evening. Instead, I'll just talk about the music.

In a word: WOW.

While waiting to get into the session,we were treated by a mini-concert by Dean-O. But that was just the beginning. Kicking us off in the session was the Go Fish Guys. Yes, their cd's are great. And yes, we can rock out to their dvd's. But seeing them in person is just phenomenal. To have everyone on their feet, waving their hands in the air, and doing the motions was a sight to behold.

Later on, we were treated to the musical stylings of the Lads. We use Lads music and their dvd comedy program periodically in our Sunday Morning programs. They have a very hard driving beat and style that's a little hard to describe. But then came the surprise of the evening. You see, the opening session of CPC is always a bit emotional for me, particularly during worship time. But I figured, hey, it's the Lads. Rockin' out to "My Best Friend is the Creator of the Universe." is fun, right? And then....they effortless merged into "How Great is My God". I was startled from the power of the transition. The emotions followed.

Phil Joel, formerly with the Newsboys, followed up with some more hard, driving songs, including some of worship which again swept me away. Yes, it was loud and no, I don't think that style is for everyone. My ears were still ringing, but my heart was soaring as I left the hall.


My Children's Pastor's Conference experience got started early this morning with the church tour. This year's journey took us to Orange County, California, specifically the bustling communities of Huntington Beach and Fountain Valley. Since my wife and I used to live around there, it was neat to travel on familiar streets once again.

Our first stop was Seabreeze Church. In spite of their size, their building was fairly simple, having been converted from a raquetball club. It was nice to see the easily identifiable check in areas outside, which is something you can get away with in southern California.

Stop number two was First Christian Church of Huntington Beach. I had been to FCC once before, but they have built and remodeled their areas. Each room has a particular theme: Treehouse, TechHouse, Lighthouse, etc.

The third stop was Beachpoint Church. This location was memorable for two reasons: first of all, the tour bus had difficulties navigating the difference in height between the street and the driveway to the church. There is nothing quite like hearing the "rumble, rumble, scrape" sound of bumper on pavement. But the second reason Beachpoint was so memborable is that the facility is so incredibly simple in design, but the children's pastor can instantly rattle off names, likes, dislikes, and interests of the individual children in her ministry. And the point is's not the wow pizzazz of facilities that counts in children's's relationships!

Monday, March 14, 2011


I’m in San Diego, California for the Children’s Pastors’ Conference.

No, the conference hasn’t started yet. Long time readers of this blog (and those who know me and have heard the story) know that I try to book a “travel day” to avoid missing the pre-con check in. Plus, the extra time gives me a chance to become acclimated to everything (southern California is very acclimatable—and don’t look up that word, it’s likely not a real one).

I’m blessed this year to have two children’s ministry conferences in a short amount of time. On March 5 was our regional Rogue Valley Children’s Ministry Conference, put on by the great folks of the Rogue Valley Children’s Ministry Network. We brought some of our children’s ministry volunteers as well as some our daycare workers for this day of equipping and encouragement. The keynote speaker was the one and only Karl Bastian, founder of Kidology, one of the largest online resource networks for children’s ministry in the country. Karl and I have been internet buddies for a long time. We’ve bumped into each other at the San Diego conference on various occasions. He is a true servant, as authentic as they come, and I’d have to say one of the many influences on my own children’s ministry. His presentations are still being referenced and used by our team. Thank you, Karl, for your ministry in Oregon earlier this month (and though I’m not signed up for this particular one, Karl is doing an entire pre-conference session on Kidology at the San Diego CPC).

Karl and me clowning around

Our team for RVCMC '11

So here I am…a little over a week later, at the (deep breath) International Network of Children’s Ministries Children’s Pastors’ Conference (CPC for short). This is my 6th trip (though not in a row). The leadership of my church graciously allowed me to go this year, for which I am grateful. Like a lot of children’s ministers, there is a unique joy and energy that comes from serving kids, a joy and energy that sometimes defies human logic. But even the strongest of batteries needs regular re-charging. CPC does that. Plus, quite frankly, the last 30 plus days have been a tad bit more stressful than usual (I’m working on a blog entry about that as well). I won’t be so dramatic as to cry out in anquish “I need this conference!”, but it’s pretty close. I’m thankful for the down time, where I don’t have to be or do anything or be anywhere…I can just “veg out”, “be a flake,” etc. And I’m thankful for the actual conference coming up…the workshops, the general sessions, the opportunities to network, the resource center. I will benefit greatly in more skills and ideas. My church will benefit. My co-workers will benefit. And the kids will benefit. So CPC 11 is here. And so am I.