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Oct 19

Lessons Learned About Kids Ministry from the Creator of VeggieTales

Phil Vischer offers children’s pastors, teachers and ministries lessons learned through his experiences with Veggie Tales, which Vischer created and then lost ownership of through bankruptcy.  In an interview with World Magazine, he discusses his new venture What’s in the Bible and explains how and why it differs from VeggieTales.

This is wise counsel and should be a must-read for all church leaders and parents, especially those leading and developing kids ministry programs at churches.

On kids ministry:

After the bankruptcy I had kind of a forced sabbatical of three or four months of spending time with God and listening to Him. I looked back at the previous 10 years and realized I had spent 10 years trying to convince kids to behave Christianly without actually teaching them Christianity. And that was a pretty serious conviction. You can say, “Hey kids, be more forgiving because the Bible says so,” or “Hey kids, be more kind because the Bible says so!” But that isn’t Christianity, it’s morality.

That realization led me to a quest to say, all right, I need a new vehicle for teaching where I can go in much, much deeper but still in a fun, lighthearted, witty way. For my new series, What’s in the Bible, I wanted to create the equivalent of Carl Sagan’s Cosmos. It was this groundbreaking miniseries in the ’80s that explained the entire world, the entire universe, to families. I want to do that with the Bible, not just for kids but for families. It’s not a kids’ show, it’s a family show.

…And that was such a huge shift for me from the American Christian ideal. We’re drinking a cocktail that’s a mix of the Protestant work ethic, the American dream, and the gospel. And we’ve intertwined them so completely that we can’t tell them apart anymore. Our gospel has become a gospel of following your dreams and being good so God will make all your dreams come true. It’s the Oprah god. So I had to peel that apart. I realized I’m not supposed to be pursuing impact, I’m supposed to be pursuing God. And when I pursue God I will have exactly as much impact as He wants me to have.

We have this American industrial thing where we want to build the McDonalds and Coca-Colas of evangelism and come up with formulas and systems that are guaranteed to work and it can be highly effective, but I don’t know that it’s highly Christian.

On following dreams:

I no longer use the word dream as a noun describing a goal. We misinterpret passages from the Bible like, “For lack of vision the people perish.” From that we run off and go, “Oh, we’ve got to have vision, we’ve got to have dreams!” But it was Henry Blackaby who first pointed out to me that when we interpret that verse to apply to our ambitions, we’re completely misinterpreting it. A better, contemporary translation is, “For lack of revelation the people throw off restraint.”

We’re not called to be a people of vision, we’re called to be a people of revelation. God speaks and we follow. We’ve completely taken this Disney notion of “when you wish upon a star, your dreams come true” and melded that with faith and come up with something completely different. There’s something wrong in a culture that preaches nothing is more sacred than your dream. I mean, we walk away from marriages to follow our dreams. We abandon children to follow our dreams. We hurt people in the name of our dreams, which as a Christian is just preposterous.

That doesn’t mean I just sit here waiting for God to hand me a Post-it note with tomorrow’s agenda. But I brainstorm, I have ideas, I put them on the wall, and I pray about them. Then one of those ideas will start to percolate a bit, start to bubble, and then I chase the bubble to see if that’s where God is moving me. But if suddenly God seems to be moving me in a different direction, I let go of that idea, because it’s just an idea. If I keep calling it my dream, I’m holding on to it too tightly until it becomes something I can’t let go of. And the only thing I can’t let go of is God. Everything else should be held with an open hand.

Listen to Megan Basham discuss Phil Vischer’s new venture, What’s in the Bible, on The World and Everything in It.

Read the entire interview at WORLD Magazine | Not about the dream | Megan Basham | Sep 24, 11.

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