Monday, November 19, 2012


You've no doubt heard the news that Hostess is shutting down and that the ubiquitous Twinkie will soon be a rare commodity. A friend of mine lamented about how a part of childhood will soon be gone.  Twinkies could bring a smile to kids' faces.  They were spongy, packed sugar, with a shelf life of a few millennial.  But Twinkies made no pretense of being a "nutritious" snack.  They had one function: to be a sweet treat.  That's it.

Yes, Twinkies were a sweet treat that could bring a smile to a child's face.  Could it be, as we get older, we forget some of these simple pleasures, even to the point of becoming cynical?

What is it about a singing purple dinosaur that proved to be a hit among millions of younger kids? And why did it seem like the adult world was so bent on cutting him down?  Granted, Barney was not high brow entertainment.  The acting would never win an Oscar.  The songs were not the stuff of Broadway legend.  The whole gist of Barney was in its theme song: "I love you, you love me, we're a happy family...."  Grown ups gag.  Little kids love it.  It's a sweet treat.

Have you ever seen a Miss Patty Cake video?  I heard one parent shake her head and say, "I'd go into a diabetic coma if I watched too much of this."  Harsh words, but her kids were mesmerized.  I've had the privilege of meeting Miss Patty Cake.  She is one of the most pleasant, level-headed adults I've ever met. I'm sure we could have a deep conversation on the intricacies of Christian education and the use of media in an increasingly secular marketplace.  But if there are preschoolers around, it's a "Patty Cake Praise day!".

"Yes," you may argue, "They are sweet treats, but at least they have a message.  They're trying to teach something.  Twinkies have no nutritional value at all."

But does that mean they're without value?  I've got to wonder, what is the cost of a child's smile? Is it okay to make a child laugh for no other reason than to experience the joy of hearing his or her joy?
In our children's ministry, we used fun things to illustrate, fun things to teach, fun things to help kids learn.  But we also used fun things for no other reason than fun.  For example, we used video countdowns prior to the kids time.  One of the countdowns (which we used near Thanksgiving) has a goofy cartoon turkey running away for some unknown reason!  The kids laugh.  It's funny. Aside from being a visual transition from one element of the service to the next, the countdown video serves no other purpose than to be funny.

But wait a's a transition from one part of the service to the next.  The kids are learning that a church service has different parts and that there is a particular time to fellowship with my friends and a time to get ready to sing.  I've been in adult services where the leader pleads in vain from the microphone to get folks back together after "greet one another" time.  Perhaps they'd benefit from a running turkey video countdown!

I believe we've lost some of the fun.  We've tried to make kids into young adults, expecting them to conform to the understanding of a teenager or above.  And we've forgotten the joy.  Jesus said to let the little children come to Him.  I've had enough experience with kids to know that, in general, kids don't like hanging around cynical, grumpy, world-weary adults.  There was something about our Savior that children liked.  I won't speculate on whether Jesus would multiply Twinkies for kids, but I'm sure He knew what fun and joy were all about.  May we never take that away from our children.

So grab a Twinkie (if you can find one), plug in an old cartoon, and remember.

(after writing this post, I've learned that some other companies may possibly buy the brand and save Twinkies from extinction!)

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