On the road of life
There are two ways to go:
You can choose Abundant Life, or say,
“Whatever, dude – We’ll see how it goes…”
Now I don’t know about you
I just know about me
And I know what to do
If I wanna be free!
I’m followin’ Jesus – Jesus
I’m followin’ Jesus – Jesus
Down the road we go – it’s really rather odd
We can play it safe and slow – or fly through life with God!
I don’t know about you
And everyone’s goin’ that way
I just wanna be free
So I’m gonna walk by faith!
I’m followin’ Jesus – Jesus
I’m followin’ Jesus – Jesus!
My son explains to me one day that he accepted Christ all by himself in bed. When I asked how and why, he said,
“Well, it’s like your friend sings, ‘There are two ways you can go, and you have to choose.’ And I’m choosing to follow Jesus.”
It doesn’t get much clearer than that!
If you aren’t using Rob’s music in your children’s ministry, you are depriving your kids of some of the best written, best sounding and most meaningful Christian music available for children. There is a lot of fun fluff out there that passes as children’s worship music – and a lot of adult worship music jazzed up for kids, but Rob’s music communicates solid biblical themes kids need to hear within tunes they enjoy hearing and singing. There are only a few Christian Children’s Artists of his caliber, and he’s my favorite solo artist.
AND THIS MONTH, (September 2013) you can get a TON OF HIS MUSIC FOR FREE if you are a Kidology Member! And his latest CD for only $10!
Which is why I started nicely pestering my friends at both Speed Stacks and Awana years ago about the need for a partnership. After many brain storming meetings with the Sport Stacking experts at Speed Stacks and the Awana Game experts at Awana we have come up with some really fun games for the Awana Circle. Next, we had nearly 50 churches try them out during the last club year, and offer laboratory-tested improvements to make them even better!
If you are looking for a GREAT CLUB,consider Awana! Having an Awana Club as a part of my children’s ministry has always been not only the most effective outreach ministry of the children’s ministry, but of the entire church everywhere I have served.
If you are looking for a GREAT MINISTRY TOOL,check out Speed Stacks! They are fun and effective regardless of what type of ministry club program you are running — kids church, sports camp or whenever kids are at church and looking for something fun to do!
This is a school assembly I did at my niece Megan’s school back when Order of the Ancient came out. It was a lot of fun – it focuses on the Power of Story, and the joy of childhood. Adults and Kids alike will enjoy the stories and entertainment. It was supposed to be an ‘author assembly’ – but instead of talking about my novel, I decided to talk about why stories are so powerful, and why we all are so drawn to stories, and inspire kids to enjoy every day… TODAY!
Yup! It’s the 19th and we are celebrating 19 years of trying to figure out how to turn two people into one. And we’re doing OK. I told her when we got engaged, “Just remember, everything that is yours will be mine, and everything that is mine will be mine, and we’ll do fine!” She told me, “Just remember – Rule #1: The Wife is Right. Rule #2: If the wife ever isn’t right, refer to Rule #1.”
At our wedding Pastor Erwin Lutzer, of Moody Church in Chicago, told a very touching story. He said, “As Sara was standing at the back of the church before the ceremony and about to enter to the music and was looking down the aisle that would forever change the path of her life, she was reflecting on that aisle. Then, she looked upon the altar where she would make the vows that would bind her for life to the man she had chosen, and so she thought about that altar. And then lastly she looked upon him – the man to whom she would soon be married and spend the rest of her life with, and so in her final moments of singlehood, these were the things she was thinking about…over and over…aisle; altar; him. Aisle; altar; him. Aisle; altar; him. Aisle; alter; him. I’ll alter him. Yeah, I’ll alter him!”
Well, alter me she has. But it’s all been for the good. I’ve become a better person for being married to my sweetheart. Gentler. Kinder. More patient. More sensitive to people. More observant of subtle cues I used to miss. Less dominant in social settings and a better listener. She’s made me a better person. But while Pastor made a funny joke, my wife hasn’t set out to change me (like some wives do), she has allowed me to be myself (flaws and all) and been gracious and forgiving in the worst of times. She has changed me by her example and her quiet and gentle spirit which I admire. (I Peter 3:3-4)
I am back at Camp Timber-lee! I’ve lost track of how many times I’ve been here since 1998, since I’ve only missed a few years but spoke multiple times other years – it’s like a home away from home for me. And while it was once the camp for the kids at my church, it’s now a camp in Wisconsin I fly back to speak at from Colorado – so I guess they like me! I feel like family here, even though I only get to be a small part of the massive operation here for only one week of the year, but I count it an honor and a privilege every time!
This year the theme is TRANSFORMED and what a great opportunity to challenge kids to allow God to transform them or some area of their life.
I just got all unpacked and moved in after a long day of travel, so I thought – just for fun – I’d post a picture of my closet in my cabin for you to get a glimpse into my style of teaching.
Here it is:
I’m posting this for a few reasons.
First of all – It just looks like fun and I’m excited about the week ahead! Secondly, I can’t believe I fit all this in my luggage! (Though I shipped the robot puppet ahead and bought the hula hoops and super soaker at Wal-Mart after I got here!)
Thirdly, because I want to encourage those of you who teach kids to go the extra mile to engage kids when you teach!
Yes. It is a lot of extra work and takes extra effort to include props and fun games and include interactive elements in your lessons – but the results are always better and higher because the kids are engaged, listening, and you earn the right to be heard. This is explained in greater detail relationally in the Kidology Handbook, and from a teaching perspective in the The Kids Church Cookbook.
Now, don’t get me wrong, it isn’t just about being fun! It is fun with a purpose! Every game is an object lesson and every illusion illustrates a lesson point, and that takes time and prayer and planning. It’s rarely in the curriculum, at least not to the standard I demand, and rarely with much scriptural basis. I had to collect Transformer toys for a year and spend a lot of time working props to fit my lessons.
But in the end – I’ll have lessons that are highly interactive and engaging without using any media. (My personal belief is I use NO media at camp – kids get enough of that at school and church throughout the year, I want everything at camp to be REAL and not ‘on screen’ – only worship words are on screen, something I have no control over.)
Fourthly – I wanted to have some fun with you. Take a close look at the picture. And in comments, how many of the items in my closet can you name? I’m not going to approve any comments until the contest is over! Whoever guesses the most correctly, will win a cool (and valuable) prize when I get home! (If any comments do go live, it may be they are per-approved for being previous commenters – no fair using their comments for hints!?) I put them all live and announce the winner at the end of the week!
I’m curious how many of my teaching props some of you kidmins out there may recognize. If you have questions about my props shown, ask in a separate comment, so I can approve and then answer!
I am not one to toss around the words “favorite” or “best” lightly or often, so when I say that W. Bruce Cameron’s novel Emory’s Gift is my favorite novel, I mean it quite sincerely.
It is TRULY the best novel I have ever read. Never before have I laughed out loud reading a book, turned away from others lest they see my tears, or just cried boldly on a plane because I no longer cared if anyone saw my tears. I have read lines to strangers who had no idea what I was trying to express because they lacked the context, but I didn’t really care, because I just couldn’t keep that line or paragraph to myself. Cameron’s writing style and insight into the mind of a young boy is truly amazing, insightful, and downright hysterical at times.
Truly, I am Charlie Hall, the main character – a middle schooler, around whom the book revolves. And I miss him now like I lost a childhood friend I’ll never get to see again. So real did the author make him, and so vivid did he paint his memories, his experiences, his deep loves, such as Kate, a teacher he was convinced returned his love. (What boy hasn’t fallen head over heels for a teacher and pretended in his mind that it was mutual, even while he knew he was only kidding himself?) But eventually he found “true love” in Beth, a girl much closer to his age, who both befuddled and enchanted him with her spunk and charm.
Indeed, Cameron has written one of those rare novels where the greatest agony is not that the bear aspect of the story may or not be true, but rather the agony that Charlie Hall isn’t real. In the end, he hints at a conclusion the reader is perhaps to come to without directly telling it to him. It’s genius. I’ve never read a novel twice, but I will put this away only long enough to forget the details so that I can relive it. It might take several years, though, since I remember it as though I lived it. But when the time comes, I will journey with Charlie Hall again down memory lane.
Charlie is a boy who lost his mother to cancer and lives in a home with a nearly silent father who, while not a bad father, is withdrawn and dealing with his own grief while leaving Charlie to cope in his own way. An encounter with a wild grizzly bear in the woods that ends up becoming his best friend becomes central to the story – especially when the bear turns out to be perhaps more than just any bear. But I don’t want to include any spoilers, so I’ll leave the mystery of “Emory’s Gift” to those who are lucky enough to pick up a copy of the book.
Part of my connection to the book is that, like Charlie, I also lost my mother to cancer in 1996. It was also slow and painful. While I was a young adult at the time, my much younger brother was Charlie’s age, and he was still at home with an agonizing father. I saw a lot of my dad and brother in this story and in their journey toward moving on without the most loving mother this world has ever known. I am giving a copy of the book to my brother, an MLB reporter and writer who I think will greatly appreciate Cameron’s gift for storytelling. I believe it might bring some healing to his heart regarding the loss of his mom at that tender age and perhaps help him understand his dad a little better, who is now remarried and happy again. This book helped me heal some too.
I may have read somewhere that this is a book for children; however, I certainly would not recommend it for kids.* I do recommend it for the child in each of us, especially for grown men who remember the struggles of transitioning from childhood to manhood and the awkward inner (and literal!) battles they caused. Charlie’s former best friend Dan becomes a bit of an ‘enemy,’ even culminating in a classic school fight that is described both with heart and humor. It is certain to bring back many memories for men who faced the same coming of age battles in their younger years.
But it was the story of the bear that drew me to the book initially, for I encountered a bear at the age of ten, as well.
My First Yosemite Black Bear as an Adult, 2008
I was camping in Yosemite National Park at the time. I love to sleep outside, and since my nylon sleeping bag kept slipping off the plastic folding cot in the night and I’d awake in the dirt, one night my dad devised a plan to bungee cord my sleeping bag to the cot. I awoke in the middle of the night to gentle nudging in my side. Thinking someone was trying to awaken me, I peeked and discovered a large black bear sniffing me! Terrified, I only stared at my “Emory,” wondering if I was a midnight snack. Unable to speak or move, I just froze and watched (and felt) as he continued to sniff me, gently nudging into me. I remembered Forest Ranger Nina (my Kate of the week) telling us that bears never attacked campers, but that they had mauled people just trying to get food. With that thought came the realization that I had some jolly ranchers in my pocket.
The bear’s nose went under my cot, and as its massive head vanished, so did my hope of survival. I figured my final memory would be the shadow of its body without the head, when suddenly the bear lurched up, flipping my cot. At that point I figured it was “flip and slash” so I broke my silence and screamed like a girl. No offense to girls, I mean it actually as a compliment! (Did I mention I was bungee corded to the cot?) As I landed face down in the dirt, the cot on my back, my dad came out of the Winnebago Camper to save some screaming girl and saw the bear lumbering back into the woods, jolly-rancher-less, and discovered the screaming girl was actually his ten-year-old son.
Like a grown Charlie Hall, I have become a bear hunter in Yosemite ever since. You can read of my first bear discovery here: A Prayer BEARly Answered (Bear pictured above.)
The Black Bear I spotted last year, 2011
There are only 400 bears in Yosemite and over 5 million visitors annually, and every year God has blessed me with a bear sighting and the opportunity to photograph them. I have a series of photos now. I wonder, like grown Charlie Hall, if one of them is “my bear.” Of course, thirty years later, they can’t be…but its fun to wonder.
The Black Bear I spotted in 2010
So you can imagine the special connection I had to Charlie Hall reading Cameron’s novel.
Yosemite Black Bear from 2009
I hope Emory’s Gift causes many to pause and consider ‘mystery’ (for the book allows for mystery) and that the message that the book delivers (that I’m keeping from you to not spoil it) will open hearts to God. For parents, I hope that it will help them to connect better with their kids in difficult times, and for others, that it will encourage them to seize life and not allow hurt and pain to hold them back from enjoying what is next in life, to not let their Beth get away, because there may not be a second chance for everyone. (slight spoiler, but it ends well!)
WANT A FREE COPY?
The author mailed me a stack of hard cover copies to sponsor my podcast where I talk about the book, and I’ll be giving several copies away there, but I’ll give away a THREE FREE COPIES here on my blog as well! All you have to do is COMMENT ON THIS REVIEW and tell me a story about YOU and an ANIMAL. I will choose three people at random and contact you for your address!
It doesn’t have to be as dangerous or exciting as mine – you fed your cat this morning is fine! Just tell me a true animal story and you will be entered to win!
I HIGHLY RECOMMEND that you pick up a copy of Emory’s Gift as a gift for someone you love, especially men, for birthdays, Christmas and this upcoming Father’s Day! They will thoroughly enjoy it!
*Why don’t I recommend the book for children? While I found nothing offensive in the book at all, as an adult, it is a book that reflects on life as a young boy becoming a man. Therefore, there are a few references to girls and women in that context from the perspective of a grown man reflecting back on his discovery of girls, their development, the beauty of women, and relating to both. There is one mild reference to sex that while a child might miss it, is there nonetheless. It is a reference to his dad having sex with a woman that he didn’t figure out until ‘years later’ but the reader puts it together because the reader is assumed to also now be older than Charlie and also reflecting on the situation. (The whispering and giggling in the other room when the women spends the night. They eventually marry.) I’m curious how a child reading a few of these passages would process them, being in the middle of those life changes and discoveries. It was delightful and fun, never really offensive, but read like a book for adults reminiscing over those difficult years of discovery.
It can be easy to get stuck in a rut. Routine can settle into our lives and we can find ourselves becoming creatures of habit. Life becomes a matter of daily survival instead of an Adventure.
On my podcast today, Nicki Straza, my Canadian sister, joins me as we discuss how to discover NEW things, the importance of trying NEW things, and most importantly, allowing God to do a NEW thing in you.
Of course, like Awana, I’m a huge fan of reaching boys and girls for Jesus.
I’m also a huge fan of my iPad and my iPhone.
So, how excited could I BE when Awana started making Apps for the iPhone and iPad. (and, that other mobile OS too, what it’s called, Robot? AI? Droid?)
First, they had the 100% Free Gospel App, which was fitting, since the Gospel is free, after all. And it adapts for the age of the person you are sharing the Gospel with.
It works for adults, teen or children and has an iPhone and iPad version. Every Christian should have this on their device so they are “Always prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks… the reason for the hope that you have.” (I Peter 3:15)
But now, Awana has released a BRAND NEW app called the Sparky App – and if you listen to my latest Kidmin Talk Webcast, you can even WIN A FREE download!
The Sparky App is a very cute storybook app that young children will adore.
As you open it, you can choose between English and Spanish, and whether you want to read it or have the story read to you.
You follow a fun story about Sparky and learn an important lesson he learns that children can learn as well about Thankfulness.
It is colorful and delightful and kids will enjoy the sounds and interactivity of this high tech story-telling method.
For a limited time, it is only $ .99 so drop by the App Store for your device and pick up the Sparky App, whether you have an Awana Club or not.
If you are interested in learning more about Awana Clubs, and how they are help your church reach more kids for Christ, go here:
As I often say, “There is not only no more effective outreach tool for children’s ministry – but for the entire church, than having an Awana Club in your church.”
Pastor Karl Bastian, the Kidologist
Founder of Kidology.org
This is part of a series called 24 Days of Thankfulness. These posts are in RANDOM order, NOT priority order. Each is something I am thankful for leading up to Thanksgiving.
DAY #17 : Awana and Sunday School
I was just serving at an Awana last night in Colorado Springs. I was reminded as I watched these clubbers of the impact of Awana in my own spiritual journey as I realized how blessed these kids are – and they don’t even realize it yet. For them, it’s just something fun their parents have enrolled them in.
Yet they are having a spiritual foundation laid that is going to serve them for the rest of their life. Some will come to Christ at club, others will memorize hundreds of Bible verses which will become the building blocks of spiritual thought that will form a biblical world view which will become the super structure upon which will be built a life of critical thinking. And I’m not over-stating it. Objective studies by outside researchers have found that most kids trained in Awana continue to faithfully follow Jesus as adults. (source)
Awana is also where I got my beginning as a children’s ministry worker. My first official volunteer position was as a Sparky Game Leader when I was a young boy. Serving in Awana taught me a lot about living for something outside of myself and what it meant to be a part of a Team reaching and teaching chidren… I was in barely into the junior high having just finished the end of what was then Awana Boys Club Pioneers. (Now T and T)
I have had or started an Awana Club in every full time ministry I have led.
Why? Because Awana has been the single most effective outreach ministry of the entire church. Hands down. Did you catch that? I did not say most effective in the children’s ministry – I said of the entire church. Every ministry I’ve been in, I’ve been a team member of the pastoral staff and blessed to serve on a staff that functioned as a team. (I know that is not always the case in children’s ministry, so I am thankful for this.) So I am well aware of the results of all areas of ministry when it comes to new families coming to the church and people (or families) coming to Christ and (most important) assimilating into the body life of the church – and nothing does it like Awana. In fact, no other ministry draws new people like Awana, as many families who are new to the community get online and look for the church in the community that has Awana. We did. And while we ended up not attending that church, we do take our son to a their Awana club since the church we do attend doesn’t have Awana. We want our son in Awana.
After fifty years, the results are in.
Churches that have Awana – see results.
Kids who are in Awana – benefit greatly.
But I also mentioned Sunday School. “What is that?” Some may ask. I know, Sunday School seems to be going the way of VHS and Floppy Discs and soon even DVDs. A thing of the past. Most new churches are not even bothering with it as their ministries are being built on a One Hour Sunday model built around a great worship/preaching experience and their new fancy buildings reflect this with one huge auditorium and a few child care rooms and no adult educational wing or classrooms. This is tragic. With no educational hour for adults, children’s ministry is forced into a “Kids Church Only” model, which severely hinders intentional discipleship. Even when there are two services, it is the same service twice in many churches.
Christian Education, as an intentional ministry of the church is threatened. You can’t do it in Kids Church, all ages combined, and you can’t do it in small groups for adults. You can do many good things in small groups, but not intentional in-depth Christian education, so a dumbing down of the Church is happening and it is showing throughout the culture. On the adult side the evidence is everywhere, and on the kidmin side, which only kids church (which can only do so much) the results are even tougher.
Churches with both an Awana, and Sunday School education hour and a Kids Church worship service will always produce the strongest kids spiritually. This is not to say the whole parent/home element is being left out or ignored – but the Church plays a critical role and so many churches today have forgotten what it means to have a comprehensive disciple-making strategy. Or they have no idea what those words even mean.
I know that I am the result of such a strategy when I was a child. And I am thankful for it. I see the impact on my life, my faith, and who I am today. It doesn’t mean I’ve lived a perfect life, but it means I’ve known the Path, and when I got off, I knew I was off, and knew where it was, and knew the way back. A strong spiritual foundation provides you with that perspective.
I am thankful for Awana and for Sunday School. They worked together so well as part of a right hand, left hand strategy in my spiritual development, and then Kids Church brought it all together with worship and topical teaching in a kid-friendly way. Just as the adult service brings everything together for “Big People.”
This is part of a series called 24 Days of Thankfulness. These posts are in RANDOM order, NOT priority order. Each is something I am thankful for leading up to Thanksgiving.
DAY #2: God’s Word
I have loved God’s Word since childhood. I remember being encouraged to mark up my Bible as a boy with underlines and highlights and I got so carried away with it, even illustrating it with stick figure drawings of the stories that my dad once commented, “Karl, it will be easier if you just highlighted the stuff you didn’t like.”
I am thankful as well to teachers like Helen Reed and Margret Bramble and Charlie Hann and my Aunt Linda (and of course my parents) who made learning fun as well as challenging so that the Word of God was always relevant to my life.
When I turned twelve and became a man (I was never a teenager, but that’s a post for another time) my dad presented me with a Thompson Chain Reference Bible and said now I was ready for a Man’s Bible. I was in awe! 25% of the Bible was study tools, and there were linked chains of references on every imaginable topic you could follow all through Scripture! I followed each and every one, highlighting as I went. Now, writing DiscipleTown is such a toy as I bathe the curriculum in Scripture because I know the Word forward and backward because of the vast hours I spent in the Bible as a young man.
When I got to Bible college I was shocked to discover the Bible was such a strange and mysterious book to many of my fellow students when I had to sit through “intro” classes.
I beg you – don’t let the Bible be just verses in a PowerPoint to your students. Let it be a book your students STUDY and fall in love with, as it has the power to change their lives!
Let me also add, I am thankful for Awana, as it also played a key role in my love for the Word of God as I memorized countless verses to earn awards. For those who are against “rewards’ in children’s ministry, let me gently say – I’ve long since forgotten and lost the temporal rewards, but the REWARD of having memorized all that Scripture is now blessing countless children as I write curriculum for hundreds of churches across America. Rewards work – and ultimately reward children spiritually for all of eternity because kids hide God’s Word in their heart where it will not fade!
My love of God’s Word has never faded, and it began as a child from adults who inspired me with what a wonderful book it was. I’m thankful what God’s Word has meant to me, and for those who introduced me to it!
I am personally convinced that one person can be a change catalyst, a “transformer” in any situation, any organization. Such an individual is yeast that can leaven an entire loaf. It requires vision, initiative, patience, respect, persistence, courage, and faith to be a transforming leader.
~ Stephen R. Covey