Teachable Moments

Kids, Jesus, and Dr. Seuss

“And this mess is so big
And so deep and so tall,
We cannot pick it up.
There is no way at all!”
― Dr. Seuss, The Cat in the Hat

When you tell a child a story, the more details you give them, the more the story comes alive.  Take the invincible Dr. Seuss and the incorrigible Cat in the Hat with the irrepressible Thing One and Thing Two.  Has making a mess ever been more entertaining or more terrifying? I suggest not!

“Oh, what will she do to us?
What will she say?
Oh, she will not like it
To find us this way!”
―Said by Fish, 
Dr. Seuss, The Cat in the Hat

Fish Fear – who hasn’t had “fish fear”?! It seems Fish Fear is our fear as who isn’t terrified with the idea that when Mom comes home, if she finds this mess, she will not like it – at all.  The sense of pervasive anxiety that riddles the poem brings the juxtaposition of ‘the laid-back, let’s-not-get-too-upset-for-long Cat in the Hat with the life-is-just-one-disaster-away Fish’ to life.  

In telling children bedtime stories like Dr. Seuss’ Cat in the Hat, the same influence of bringing fanciful narrative to life also works with the non-fiction, historical stories of the life of Jesus.  Scripture needs to be more than trivial pursuit, a collection of stories, or bullet points to obey. It is our responsibility to bring Scripture to life for our children, and I would suggest, especially Jesus!  Making Jesus real to our kids as well as engaging both their heart and mind are key to any child’s long-term spiritual formation.

Let’s look at the entry of Jesus into Jerusalem (Matthew 21:1-17).  If we explore this narrative, there are several details which can help bring this well-known event to life.  Remember, to help children be “in the moment” of the triumphal entry, we as adults need to do our study so we can pull out all the hidden treasures.  Here are my top 3 points that will help children engage with Jesus as He begins the week prior to his crucifixion:

  1. There’s a donkey!
    A domesticated member of the horse family, this working animal is mentioned several times in the Old Testament as well (1 Kings 1:33, Judges 10:4, 2 Samuel 16:2, and – what is quoted in the gospels for Jesus’ entry – Zechariah 9:9).  Donkeys are known to be peaceful animals overall as they are not easily startled and, coincidentally, peace is what donkey-riding represented for Middle Eastern world leaders who entered a city. You would ride a horse to battle, but a ruler would ride a donkey if they were coming in peace.  The donkey was not just a mode of transportation for Jesus, but truly embodied the idea that this King came in peace! And indeed, Jesus is “the Prince of Peace” (Isaiah 9:6).
    Ask your children: What does it mean that Jesus is our “Prince of Peace”? Jesus brings peace between us and God. He did this as God who died in our place to pay for our sin and when we repent and place our faith in Him, He becomes our King and we are now children of His kingdom.

  2. People asked questions!
    Scripture says, “When Jesus entered Jerusalem, the WHOLE city was stirred and asked,“who is this?” (Matthew 21:10).  Can you imagine? An entire city whispering and murmuring and asking each other, “who is this?”.  What a buzz must have filled the air! Such curiosity, such excitement, such interest. It’s something to imagine, isn’t it?  What did that sound like and look like? But better yet, that same sense of “wanting to know Him” – does it fill our lives today?  Do I consistently ask, “who is this Jesus?
    Ask your children:  “Do you want to know Jesus?  Who He is? What is He like? Let’s explore and learn every day more about Him – He is infinitely amazing.  It will take more than a lifetime to know and love Him. Let’s not lose a moment!”  Make sure as you interact with your children about Jesus that it is not just facts and attributes that you discuss, but show your children your heart of fascination about Him.  Develop a sense of wonder that you can pass on to your children. Motivate and inspire them to want to get to know Jesus more. If I were to ask your children, “how does your Mom or your Dad feel about Jesus?”, what would they say?  And if I asked them, “are your parents curious to get to know Jesus more?”, would your children say that you are indeed a follower who pursues knowing Christ?

  3. Children were shouting!
    Jesus turned over tables, healed the blind and the lame and offended the religious leaders of the day.  What a day! And how did the children in the temple respond?  They saw the wonderful things He was doing and SHOUTED. They didn’t quietly nor with hesitation discuss their feelings; no – they SHOUTED their praise, recognizing Jesus for who He was, “Hosanna to the Son of David”.  Hosanna can be translated “Praise God” and some believe it refers to the salvation that Jesus would procure for the Kingdom He is ushering in. Hosanna has its roots in the Old Testament in which it can be translated “save” or “salvation”.  One thing is for sure, these temple children recognized the importance, the impact, and the influence that Jesus brought and they had no hesitancy to shout it out loud, even to the indignant acknowledgment of the chief priests and teachers of the law.  If Dr. Seuss’ Fish was fearful, these children are fearless!
    Ask your children:  “If you could shout one thing at the top of your lungs about Jesus, what would it be?  What would be the one thing you would want Him to know? What would be the one thing you would want others to know?  God is so great He is worthy to be shouted about, isn’t He?!”

Dear Reader, how exciting it is to know Jesus and to have this amazing opportunity to pass on our knowledge and our love for Jesus.  Let’s pass on a life-long curiosity and sense of wonder. Let’s help the next generation get caught up in the details and pursue discovering “who is this Jesus?”.

Blessings to you! Fondly yours, Elizabeth

Teachable Moments

Framing Family Ministry

On the walls of our home, you will find many, many pictures of our family through the years. From when our children were babies all the way through to their recent weddings, our walls tell our story.  The frames I carefully choose for these precious memories enhance the image and help put the unfolding narrative in context. The frame often gives clues as to how to interpret what we are looking at. Without a good frame, any picture leaves the viewer confused and the picture seems incomplete.

Pick the frame, you pick whether the picture will be a success in telling the heart and soul of the image’s story.

The same is true in Family Ministry in the church.  When we examine Family Ministry, knowing the frame of reference helps us understand what the ultimate mission and vision of the ministry is.  

  • What does the church want us to see?  
  • What is the ultimate goal the church has for families and the spiritual formation of children?  

If we understand the frame of reference, then we have a better idea of what we’re looking at and how we can enjoy and use what is being offered.

Frame 1 – Family Integration Model: A Family of Families The emphasis of this model is almost primarily on the family.  It is in the family unit children learn about faith and grow in their spiritual formation.  Families worship together, often eat together and children learn by being in the presence of their family.  Observation and imitation of behavior modeled by adults are key features of learning as children are usually in the supervising presence of their parents.  Considered a top down model, parents are very much in charge and children are to be recipients and obeyers of the truth families impart to their children. This model’s benefits certainly bring to our attention the importance of family and honors the responsibility God has given to parents to raise their children spiritually (Deuteronomy 11:19).  

Frame 2 – Family Equipping Model:  An Intentional Parent Discipleship Strategy  The vision of this model is to disciple parents more than provide programming.  It is about making sure parents have what they need to teach their children biblical truth in a solid theological framework.  The focus is more on working with parents to work with their children than directly working with the children. It is a focus of the church that is strategic throughout – it is more about an intentional philosophy of training parents to disciple their children than a calendar of programs.

Frame 3 – Family Engagement: Age specific programs in which children and youth are nurtured spiritually within the church family along with their parents  The church is a place that supplements what parents are doing.  Therefore, churches offer opportunities in programming to learn spiritual truth at different specific age-appropriate levels.  Parent pages, activities as crafts and games, and family programs that encourage children and parents to come together to learn God’s word are created within an intentional church calendar.  Spiritual formation of children is a cooperative effort where the church and family work together like a hand in a glove to help children grow spiritually.

Dear Reader, which ministry is right for the family and the church?  It’s not so much which one is “right” but which one is “right” for you!  All these models believe in both the church family God’s Spirit creates (Matthew 12:49-50) and the family unit of which you are a part.  No matter which model is right for you, consider how you frame out the decision of how you are discipling your children and how your church is framing out the ministries they provide for families.  There are different visions and missions that God has imparted to different churches. I encourage you, with prayerful thought, to choose which ministry will frame out your family story.

Blessings as you frame out your family!  Fondly yours, Elizabeth