You-Didn’t-Have-To-Type of Experience

In my last post, I admitted my awe and love for everything Disney.  It’s mostly because they give you an experience you don’t want to forget!  Well few months ago, I got to experience something new at Disneyland.  As we were walking back to Main Street, we saw a crowd of people gathered around the Astro Orbiter.  I just assumed that it was just bunch of people walking in massive crowd.  What we came upon was a cast member dressed all in white holding a broom stick.  The head of the broom was all taped up.  My friend told me that he was probably a broom artist.  A broom artist?  What’s that???

When we got closer, I saw that pink and lavender rose petals were on the ground in a specific formation.  There were lots of people trying to take photos.  Once I made my way to the bottom, I saw that the rose petals were swept in the outline of Mickey holding balloons.  It just made everyone “oooh & aaah.”

Seriously Disney?  How do you manage to always come up with new experiences for people?  There will be tons of people who visit Disneyland that will never get to experience broom art.  However, for those that do, I bet they wouldn’t easily forget it.  Disneyland is already deemed the happiest place on earth.  They didn’t have to do another thing on the side to make this place feel better.  But they did… they added another WOW to the experience.  It seems so little, but it really wow-ed people.

My thought that evening… do we offer WOW experiences to our kids and parents that come to our church week after week?  It’s not that we have to do something magical every week… but it’s in the way we interact with kids and parents.  It’s in the way we welcome them.  It’s in the way we talk with them.  It’s in the way we show our love and care to them.  One parent told me that his daughter and son liked our church because we sent them postcards addressed to the kids, and they had never received postcards before.  Are we offering the type of experience that makes parents say “you didn’t have to…” to which we say “we wanted to”?

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It’s In the Little Detail…

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Confession:  I really tried NOT to like Disney and his empire!  I mean, how much more money could he possibly take from all these families that just wanna have a good family time?  Although I lived about 35 miles away from Disneyland, I didn’t go for about 11 years because Disney was not gonna get MY money!!!  That money afterall can be used for something more useful!

Confession:  Disney this, Disney that… that’s all I kept seeing on facebook and blog posts; that’s all I kept hearing how magical and awesome everything Disney is… I secretly really wanted that magical experience again… so last summer right before Disney hiked up their annual pass cost to pay for Carsland, I broke down and got myself an annual pass.

Confession:  Disneyland really is the happiest place on earth… It’s seriously magical!  I’ve gone to Disneyland and California Adventure (DCA) 15 times in the last 10 months.  Not only am I having a magical time… but I’m learning a lot about what it means to create a magical experience for people.  I jokingly (actually I’m not joking) say that my church should pay for my annual pass because I’m learning so much and I’m doing so much research at Disneyland and DCA.  I’ve been thinking about few of things that I have learned, and I’ve been meaning to blog about it… I’m sure there is more to come…  but this one is one of my favorites!

Confession:  I’m a detailed person… I notice random things that most people don’t notice.  I absolutely FELL in love with this sign!  This sign is actually very easy to miss… You wouldn’t even notice it unless you were by the City Hall by the Entrance.  This is where people come for information, lost & found, etc… I love that this simple sign is from the perspective of a child… Who has ever heard of a lost parent?  Isn’t it always the kid that is lost?  Well, depending on whose perspective you take… “I lost my parents,” that’s what kids say!  Thus, lost parents!!!  I love that Disney pays attention to every little detail that screams “this is a place for kids!”  Disney truly is magical… and be warned that there will be many more posts regarding what I learned from the Disney empire!  I keep saying “Disney is gonna rule the world some day…”  I think I half-mean it!

Stronger Wings

ImageCouple weeks ago, I was invited to dinner at one of our church deacon’s home.  They have two little boys, and I got to see something cool for the first time.  Their older son had gotten a butterfly cocoon  from a museum, and it was in an insect cage.  The butterfly happened to emerge from the chrysalis during our dinner, and we all got excited!  They had an instruction manual that said NOT to touch the butterfly, but to put in a branch in the cage.  We did just that. We stared at the butterfly, and it did nothing.  In fact, we all commented on how drab and ugly it looked. About another hour into our conversation, I suddenly saw the butterfly open its wings, and it was colorful and beautiful.  I know I learned about metamorphosis in school (few times I’m sure) but witnessing it for the first time was pretty phenomenal… and I learned more about the life cycle of butterflies at this moment than I had from textbooks.

Two days later, I had dinner with a good friend of mine.  We were talking about struggles of parenting (although I don’t have children, as a minister to children and families this is a topic I take great interest in).  She told me about a story she had read online about why it’s important to allow your children to struggle through life experiences.  It’s apparently a pretty famous story (that I had never heard before)… and I even found several different versions online.  This was my favorite version:

Once a little boy was playing outdoors and found a fascinating caterpillar. He carefully picked it up and took it home to show his mother. He asked his mother if he could keep it, and she said he could if he would take good care of it.

 The little boy got a large jar from his mother and put plants to eat, and a stick to climb on, in the jar. Every day he watched the caterpillar and brought it new plants to eat.

 One day the caterpillar climbed up the stick and started acting strangely. The boy worriedly called his mother who came and understood that the caterpillar was creating a cocoon. The mother explained to the boy how the caterpillar was going to go through a metamorphosis and become a butterfly.

 The little boy was thrilled to hear about the changes his caterpillar would go through. He watched every day, waiting for the butterfly to emerge. One day it happened, a small hole appeared in the cocoon and the butterfly started to struggle to come out.

 At first the boy was excited, but soon he became concerned. The butterfly was struggling so hard to get out! It looked like it couldn’t break free! It looked desperate! It looked like it was making no progress!

 The boy was so concerned he decided to help. He ran to get scissors, and then walked back (because he had learned not to run with scissors…). He snipped the cocoon to make the hole bigger and the butterfly quickly emerged!

 As the butterfly came out the boy was surprised. It had a swollen body and small, shriveled wings. He continued to watch the butterfly expecting that, at any moment, the wings would dry out, enlarge and expand to support the swollen body. He knew that in time the body would shrink and the butterfly’s wings would expand.

 But neither happened!

 The butterfly spent the rest of its life crawling around with a swollen body and shriveled wings.

 It never was able to fly…

As the boy tried to figure out what had gone wrong his mother took him to talk to a scientist from a local college. He learned that the butterfly was SUPPOSED to struggle. In fact, the butterfly’s struggle to push its way through the tiny opening of the cocoon pushes the fluid out of its body and into its wings. Without the struggle, the butterfly would never, ever fly. The boy’s good intentions hurt the butterfly.

Wow!  I never knew this… (or I wasn’t paying attention when I was supposed to have learned this fact!).  I learned TWO amazing life lessons through butterflies this week:

  1. Yes, struggling is an important part of growth experience!  In fact, it’s the struggle that gives you stronger wings to fly!  Not only parents but churches/ministries often make the mistake of raising children, youth, and adult congregation members in a bubble.  We don’t allow people to struggle… we often tell them how to think, feel, respond, and act as Christians… when what we need to do is allow them to struggle through their decisions with our guidance.  We need to let those God has entrusted to us to come to their own convictions through struggles (even if they arrive at undesired decisions at the time).  We need to allow people to make mistakes and learn from them.  We need to allow people to develop stronger wings so that they can fly even when they’re no longer part of our ministries.
  2. Eye witness and experience teaches us more than textbooks.  I know that metamorphosis of butterflies is part of primary and secondary science curriculum… I vaguely remember the diagrams in my textbooks.  However, the details of this lesson never stuck… but when I saw the butterfly emerging from the pupa with my own eyes, I was completely fascinated by the process…  and I haven’t forgotten the details because I experienced the wow of the butterfly pumping fluid into its wings.  Experience will always trump information transfer!

I took this photo of a moth in Minneapolis couple of years ago… I thought it was pretty amazing then… but I now have a whole new appreciation for these beautiful strong wings!

How do you measure a child’s faith?

Lately I’ve been engaged in a lot of conversations about what and how we should teach children in the church.  And naturally, these conversations lead to measuring what kids have learned and applied to their lives.  I know that most (hopefully most, if not all) ministers of children know that it’s not about how much information kids know that’s going to change their lives… and yet, for some reason, many seem to be hung up on assessing spiritual growth by how much kids know about God, the Bible, Jesus, the Church, etc…  I really struggle with this concept because I grew up knowing a lot about God and Jesus… I knew bunch of stories from the Bible, and pretty much, I knew almost all the right answers to the questions teachers asked at church… but that had absolutely nothing to do with the condition of my heart and my life.   Don’t get me wrong… I don’t mean to minimize the importance of memorizing verses nor knowing Bible stories.  Of course those are important… but where I have trouble is that we often equate knowledge with spiritual maturity in kids… and where I have trouble is the mere fact that we, as kidmin leaders, feel the need to even quantify children’s faith.  Maybe I’m the crazy one here (I often feel like I’m on crazy pills… go figure…), but I think we need to let go of control, be faithful in leading and helping kids love Jesus, allow the Holy Spirit to work in the lives of these kids, and loosen the grip on trying to measure the faith of children in our ministries.  Once again, please don’t misunderstand me… we need to know where our kids are coming from and their knowledge of what we’re trying to teach… but what I’m saying is that we need to stop equating spiritual growth with head knowledge of the Bible, Church, Jesus, etc…  (forgive me, it’s midnight, and I’m awfully tired… but just need to get this out while it’s in my head…)

I recently heard this story (paraphrased for space-sake):

Dad (talking to his 2 children 7 & 10 years old):  How am I doing as your dad these days?

Kids:  Okay, but sometimes you’re impatient with us… or don’t spend enough time with us…

Dad:  I’m sorry.  I will try to do better.  (Dad write and signs a covenant with the kids… promising to be a more patient dad who spends more quality time with them.  At the end of the covenant, he writes down few practical action plans, and promises to owe them $10 every time he fails in those areas).

7 yr old:  But Dad, isn’t forgiveness enough?  Why do you have to pay us $10 if you break your promise?

Wow… I don’t know about other people’s reaction.. but to me, this is evidence of child’s spiritual growth… She had been taught that we forgive when someone wrongs her just as Jesus forgave all of us… She’s trying to apply this to her life.  She may only be 7 years old, but even 7 year olds like money… but she’s trying to see how what she’s learned about forgiveness fits into her real life… that’s evidence of her learning and applying Biblical truth… and to me, this speaks louder than 20 verses she can recite verbatim or naming all the disciples.

In short, I don’t think we can necessarily measure a child’s faith… but for me, stories of what kids genuinely say and do tells me that they’re learning, loving, and growing in Jesus… (I’m really hoping this is coherent when I re-read it in the morning…)  time for bed…

 

a lesson from mini-darth & the wizarding world of harry potter…

I admit it!  I’ve contributed my share to 25 million+ views on YouTube of the Volkswagen commercial: the Force!  Initially I just thought the commercial was super cute!  I kept watching over and over and over and over… On Monday after the Super Bowl, I was watching Access Hollywood, and Billy Bush talked about why he liked the commercial so much.  He said it was the innocence and simplicity of life portrayed in the commercial!  And I began to wonder why I loved this commercial so much… and after much thought, I came to two conclusions:

  • I love the Dad!!!  I love that he was willing to allow his little son to experience the “unexpected.”  I love that the dad played at his son’s level.
  • I loved seeing the wonderment and amazement of the mini-darth!  In the whole minute of the commercial, all you see are his hands and bobbling darth helmet.  But you can feel his intensity, concentration, frustration, disappointment, surprise, and amazement just by his hands and body language!  My favorite moment is when the car starts, mini-darth jumps back, and turns his head towards the house.  In that short moment, I felt this kid’s “WOW” moment.  His wonderment gave me the warm & fuzzies…  for that moment, I imagined this kid thinking “wow, i do have the force…”  I could just sense this kid marveling at his new found power, and being awe of what he’s able to do!

Okay, okay… I’m probably reading too much into this simple commercial… but the feeling I had as I watched this commercial over and over again reminded me of something I had experienced at The Wizarding  World of Harry Potter (TWWOHP), Universal Islands of Adventure in Orlando few weeks ago.  I was awe-struck by the experience of TWWOHP.  I was impressed by all the details… hearing Moaning Myrtle in the bathroom, workers speaking with British accent, the signs, etc… The whole place really creates “Harry Potter” experience for the park-goers.  I also got caught up in the experience of it all… but the most memorable moment happened when I was sitting in Three Broomsticks Restaurant by myself while my friends went to the Owl Post.  I saw a boy (about 7 or 8 years old) opening up his box of his magic wand.  He was seated in my clear view.  While he was waiting for his dad to bring his meal, he took out the wand, and started waving it and mouthing “magic” words.  He had this look of wonderment and amazement! He obviously had no idea that I was watching him the whole time (i know, i’m being a stalker).  For about 5 minutes, the boy would “practice magic” and he was taken to his make-believe world… I just sat and smiled (and secretly took a picture of him).

So… WHAT IS MY LESSON???

Do kids experience WONDERMENT & AMAZEMENT when they come to church/sunday school?  Are they in AWE of worshiping our Creator?  I’m not saying that every week has to be a big production that makes them go “WOW!”  But what I’m referring to is the wonderment & amazement of having experienced Jesus in a real way!

Having been in church ministry for over 15 years, Sundays often felt like another Sunday… maybe it’s because I’m getting older, but I am starting to really feel like the time we have to share the love of Christ with the kids on Sundays is so precious… I mean, we only get 52 days out of the year to make an impression (hopefully a lot more of that is happening at home).  However, as far as Sunday school or church is concerned, only 52 weeks/year!!!  As adults, do we create space for kids to experience “the unexpected?”  Do we teach at the level that would make them go “wow?”  My desire is for the kids to experience THE FORCE (the power) of Jesus whether it be through stories, activities, relationships, etc… I have this image of kids going “WOW… GOD IS SOOOO COOL!!!” with this look of wonderment and amazement just like the mini-darth and the boy with his wand.  Afterall, isn’t God worth all of our AWE???

it’s late, it’s been a long day, and not sure how coherent this sounds.. but before i sign off, one more time of my new favorite commercial: