Friday, March 15, 2013


One of my dim memories from my elementary school days was the Wacky Races fundraiser. The classes competed against each other to raise money for a special project. And there, on the giant bulletin board in the hallway, were several straight racetracks, each one marked with a graduated dollar amount. And on each track was a cartoony race car and driving crew from Hannah-Barbara's hit children's program Wacky Races (sigh, I'm dating myself). The campaign was a hit. Kids got excited as they followed their cars' progress, seeing the characters they knew on Saturday morning come to life in their environment. Even parents and teachers got in the act. I don't remember a lot from my elementary school days, but I remember that fundraising theme, because my mom came up with it.

I don't know what her exact role was on the committee, but I do remember her asking me once what my friends and I liked watching on Saturday mornings. And one of the hit shows at the time was Wacky Races, featuring an around-the-world competition among several colorful cartoon characters. So she bought a few Wacky Races coloring books and carefully colored and cut out each car and crew. Making the tracks was easy and before you could say, "start your engines," the fundraiser was off and running.

Naturally, this was a secular environment, but my mom understood something that seems so basic now to children's ministries: to reach kids, you have to understand a kids' culture. For six days, children are immersed in a maze of pop music, video games, the internet, and, partially thanks to cable, day by day cartoons and other children's programming. Then they go to church and are exposed to grown ups who live in an adult world, walls that appeal to adult aesthetics, and technology that seems dated and drab. This sheer disconnected irrelevance communicates that the safe Jesus is a great part of Sunday mornings, but not ultimately integral to the rest of the week.

There is a lot more to this, of course. We are in the world, but not of the world, after all. But just as a general, broad principle, I believe we need to do what my mom did: ask the kids about their world. Then maybe we need to go out and get a couple of coloring books, video games, or action figures. Log on to some children-oriented sites and watch a little Nickelodeon. It's a cliche' but it's applicable: be a kid at heart!


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