Saturday, June 23, 2012


I've seen some kids totally mesmerized by a well prepared, well done flannelgraph show. This was because 1) some of the kids had never seen flannelgraph before, and 2) the teacher was so good, she could have used a bowl of dry oatmeal to get her point across.  But for a lot of children (dare I say the majority), static images on a felt background aren't going to engage the senses all the time. The fact that many kids are exposed to, engaged in, or absorbed with television, video games, movies, and the internet means that those of us involved in children's ministries should be ready to meet the challenge. While the age of the flannelgraph is not dead, it is not the only methodology available to us.

I am unapologetic in the structured use of media to minister to children.  Of course, there are those who would disagree:

  • "Kids are watching too much tv today."
  • "I don't allow my kids to watch cartoons."
  • "Church isn't a place for entertainment."
  • "Passive activity is bad for kids...bad, bad, bad!"
  • "Back in my day, we had....flannelgraph!"    And on it goes.

I don't intend to get into a point by point refutation of the these statements, because I think there might be some legitimate concerns hidden within some of them.  Yes, kids watch a lot of television today.  Yes, plopping the children in front of the tv just to have them soak up cartoons for hours is not healthy. But what the above points fail to address is the idea that technology and media are tools that, when used properly, can be very effective in getting our message across. To borrow a time-worn cliche, let's not throw the proverbial baby out with the bathwater.

PBS discovered early on that, by using colorful, goofy puppets and changing scenes relatively quickly, that they could actually teach such basic concepts as numbers and the alphabet.  Sesame Street was born.  I can still see some of the sements in my mind.  I can recite the preamble to the U.S. Constitution, not because I set out to memorize it, but because I learned a song on Schoolhouse Rock.  There have been studies done (our church's day care center actually participated in one) that demonstrate that video can actually be used as an active teaching tool. Why not harness that potential to help children and their families grow in their faith?

Yes, I know, media can be abused.  It can be abused by the world, and it can overused by the church.  That's a fair point.  After all, children's ministry is about relationships, not gadgets and gizmos.  But to many kids (except maybe those coming from a highly sheltered background), the "wow" of video and technology is the "cup of cold water" that can serve as the catalyst to build those relationships and to introduce or strengthen the ultimate relationship: the one with the Lord Jesus Christ.

Don't be afraid.  It can start with a television or a video screen.

After all, flannelgraph was once "new technology" too.

Monday, June 18, 2012


Milestones have a purpose.

It was 29 years ago, June 18, on a Saturday morning, that I appeared before a select group of pastors and church leaders to answer just three basic questions regarding:
  • My conversion
  • My calling
  • My convictions.
The "ordination council" in our church was a very rare thing.  The senior pastor would recommend a candidate for ordination (usually after a long period of observation and practical service).  A council was formed with a diverse mix of elders, deacons, and "pastors of churches of like precious faith."  I spent months creating a written answer to the three basic questions and now I had the privilege of answering these questions out loud.  It was simple and straightforward: read my statement, then answer questions about it.

Conversion...this was my testimony, how I came to trust Jesus as my Lord and Savior. was it I believed God was calling me into the ministry. view of various doctrinal and church-related matters.  And this was what took the bulk of the roughly five hour council. You see, a regurgitation of doctrinal views I had in my statement was no sufficient. These men not only wanted to know what I believed, but why I believed it. And it wasn't just the basic doctrines either.  I had to give my perspective on hot-button, potentially divisive doctrinal issues.  And for good measure, the men came up with local church scenarios that would fill volumes of pastoral horror manuals.  Some of the men seemed to delight in taking "the other side" of the argument, just to see how I would respond. The time was designed to see if I was serious about what I felt God was calling me to do.

In the end, I was asked to leave the room so the council could deliberate.  A short time later, they called me back and informed me that the council had unanimously voted to "recognize my ordination." Why did they phrase it that way? Glenn Solum, my senior pastor, put it this way: "We are not here to ordain Tim.  God has already ordained him.  All we are doing is bearing witness to and affirming what God has already done."  And that was the most sobering thing I've heard, as once again I was reminded that all of life and ministry is not about me, it's all about God.

So it's the 29th year since I became an "ordained minister." And if it sounds like I'm boasting, it's not because I'm "Captain Clergy," but rather I boast in the awesomeness of my Lord and Savior. I'm just a servant...yes, at times a rebellious one...but a servant nonetheless. Anniversaries give us the opportunity to look back at milestones and see what God has done and look ahead to what He will be doing. Being between ministries, I don't know what the future holds, but (as the old saying goes) I know who holds the future. Thank you Lord for letting me formally serve you for almost three decades.

These are pics from the formal ordination service held a couple of weeks after the council.