Sesame Street was effective because the program didn’t just contexutalize to the present; it contextualized to the future.
Remember, after all, when the show started. It was in 1969, the era of George Wallace and the Black Panther Party and campus race riots and the Richard Nixon “Southern Strategy.” From the very start, the program showed kids what few of them had ever seen before: a racially integrated neighborhood.
Now, Sesame Street could have done this with preachy didactic dialogue (kind of like Norman Lear’s Maude series). But instead, they showed kids racial equality, and made it normal for them, without ever saying much about it in the process.
As I read that, it struck me that, years before my Mississippi elementary school was integrated via busing, I’d seen African-American and Latino characters (such as “Gordon” and “Maria”) functioning as equal members of a society, on the television screen of my home.
“It’s almost too perfect that the first African-American president of the United States was elected in time for the 40th anniversary of Sesame Street,” the New York Times says. “The world is finally beginning to look the way that PBS show always made it out to be.”
What would happen if, whenever our culture saw love or reconciliation or peace, our neighbors said, “This is exactly the way that church always made life out to be?”
I wonder what would happen if our churches were to recognize our role in showing people the future, not just in our teaching and in our going but in our being? What kind of witness could we be to our communities, as fragmented as they are by race and class and economics and politics, if the very makeup of our congregations signaled the “manifold wisdom of God” (Eph. 3:10) in which “here there is no Greek nor Jew, circumcised nor uncircumcised, barbarian, Schythian, slave nor free, but Christ is all and in all” (Col. 3:11)?
“Dramatic play” centers like the “block city” & “train/city center” provide opportunities for children to recreate life experiences—exploring the roles of people and structures in their family and community. This is the teacher’s opportunity to learn about the child, and relate the gospel to all of life.
Use the “Block City” Center:
- Ask Questions: What are you building (tower, fire house, church, school)? Where have you seen that kind of building before? Have you ever been there?
- Block buildings fall down. Teach kids about how things in this world break, but God will build everything again so that it never falls down.
- Kids knock down block buildings. When this happens, encourage asking for and extending forgiveness. Continue Reading…
What do you teach concerning a child’s condition (sometimes called age) of accountability for responding to the Gospel? How would you counsel a parent who is concerned about a preschool aged child who seems disinterested in learning about Jesus? If you had to estimate (and you do), what is the chronological age that most children become fully accountable for their decision about Christ?
Some Christians and Christian traditions maintain that Scripture teaches an “age of accountability” before which young children are not held responsible for sin and are not counted guilty before God. But several Bible passages indicate that children (even before they are born) have a guilty standing before God and a sinful nature so that they not only have a tendency to sin, but God views them as sinners (Psalm 51:5; 58:3; Ephesians 2:3). Experienced parents know that children do not have to be taught to do wrong. It is their natural inclination to disobey, to lie, and to manipulate.
This is one of the strongest motivations for Christian parents and Christian churches teaching the gospel to their children from the youngest age. We teach about Jesus because children need Jesus as their savior from sin. As one famous preacher said, “The gospel is meat for men but it is also milk for babes.” But kids don’t always want to hear about Jesus and trust him. When a preschool age child isn’t interested in learning about Jesus, there isn’t necessarily a cookie-cutter answer, but here are some areas I’d explore with the parent: (1) I’d encourage the parent to examine his or her own heart. Does mom and/or dad get excited about Jesus and learning from his Word? Do they regularly pray and read Bible stories together with their family? Young children often look to and follow their parent’s example. Perhaps a parent has a satisfying relationship with the Lord, but it is private and not shared with the child. Invite the child into your relationship with Jesus. (2) I’d ask the parent whether or not he or she talks about sin with their child. Does your child know that when she disobeys you, she is also disobeying God? Do you just talk about your child’s misbehavior (taking a cookie, hitting his sister, not sharing), or do you talk with him about the heart attitudes and motivations that lie behind that behavior (greed, pride in performance, selfishness)? When our children have a more honest view of the extent to which sin is rooted in their hearts, they will be more likely to look for and respond to Christ—who provides pardon and provision for that sin. (3) Most importantly, I’d pray with the parent, and I’d encourage the parent to pray. Salvation is ultimately God’s work in the child’s heart. May God have mercy on our kids and help them to repent from sin and love Jesus.
As I stated above, I cannot justify an “age of accountability” from the Scriptures. John the Baptist was filled with the Holy Spirit from his mother’s womb (Luke 1:15). Since salvation is God’s work in a person’s heart, it doesn’t require any particular level of cognitive understanding or behavioral response to be present and real. Growth in faith is certainly evidenced by understanding and behavior, but it is not earned (or merited) by them. Faith is more than a decision, it is a gift from God. So, Tony, my age estimate is somewhere around conception.
See the answers given by other children’s ministers here.
This post begins a brief tour of the learning centers in our SojournKids classrooms. I’ll be posting one per week for the next several months.
Preschool Story Circle
This center provides a place for story-telling. Transition kids to Bible Time each week by using a few simple props. Show the kids your large story bag (in which you have visual aids and other items you will use to tell the story) then hold up your Bible, open to the Scripture passage and keep it open as you teach.
Use the Center:
- Be expressive. Memorize the story and tell it with enthusiasm.
Be familiar enough with the story to tell it without reading it.
- Maintain eye contact and react to the children’s body language. Are they interested? Do they understand?
- Explain the terms and describe the setting, but beware of adding extra-biblical thoughts to the story characters.
- Use the visual aids to keep the kids’ interest.
Clean Up: Stack the pillows neatly near the teacher’s chair.
In Coming Weeks: Regular blogging will return in coming weeks with an installment of the Thursday Book Club and another Learning Center. Also, an edition of the Children’s Ministry Think Tank is forthcoming. And Advent Resources are right around the corner!
Tuesday/Thursday Book Club:
Perspectives on Family Ministry
Separated Contexts, Shared Focus,”
It has been a while (July) since I’ve done any book club posts, but now that the book I was reviewing has actually been released, I thought I’d finish it up in two final posts. If you didn’t catch the first portions of my review, you can link to them here:
- Perspectives on Family Ministry
- Family Ministry Assumptions
- Foundations for Family Ministry
- The Family Integrated Church
Chapters 7-8 of Perspectives on Family Ministry is dedicated to family based ministry. The advocate for the position is Brandon Shields, who, at the time his chapter was completed, oversaw high school and collegiate ministries at Highview Baptist Church, a large multi-site church here in the metro Louisville area. Brandon served in youth ministry for 10 years, and he has now take a position as a senior pastor in a Florida church.
It is interesting that this is my first post on family based ministry, because I resonate with it a great deal. Two key books for the movement are Family Based Youth Ministry by Mark DeVries (Inter-Varsity Press, 2004), and Think Orange by Reggie Joiner (David C. Cook, 2009). Both of these books are worthy of their own book club installments in the near future. Continue Reading…