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Tuesday, August 29, 2006
Tricky Face Painting
I have throughly enjoyed the conversation on this blog lately. It has spoken to some of my innermost questions and has been encouraging because I realize that there are many others with the same questions and struggles that I have. I admire and respect all of the comments made, and so therefore, I'd like to post a situation that I came across tonight.

I have been meeting with a Korean friend for about a year to help with her english. It came about through my church, and her and I and our families have created a deep friendship. We have had conversations about politics, faith, why Americans are the way we are, what her culture is like etc. I've learned so much from her and my hope is that she will realize that not all americans are what she thinks.

Tonight we went to a fair in town. Her daughter, 4 years old, wanted to get a free face painting. Well the face painting was free after she heard a bible story. I thought, this could be bad. So I tried to listen in on some of it, and my friend did too a little bit. I wanted to grab her daughter and pull her out of there. The face painting girl started out telling her about God and heaven and how heaven is full of gold streets. I didn't hear some of it but basically at the end the girl was telling this four year that she was a sinner and that she needs to ask Jesus in to her heart in order to go to heaven. She then asked the four year to ask Jesus into her heart right there! I was so angry. Hannah's face looked so sad, like she had done something wrong after saying no to that question. This is really the first time Hannah had heard any of this.

My conservative background says that this is the way you do it. But my emerging faith screams otherwise. I'm not saying that the things she said aren't important. But I just think it was so inappropriate to tell a four year old and I felt like it was just so they could say, "We preached the gospel to x amount of kids this year at the fair and x amount asked Jesus into their heart"

My friend asked if this was a Christian organization and I said yes. I told her that I thought what she said to Hannah was inappropriate and if Hannah asks them any questions, which I know she will, to please feel free to come talk with me. Hannah was so sad after that and thought her face painting looked bad. I don't blame her.

It felt wierd to be angry about the situation, as it contradicted the church background I grew up in and I found that I tried to convince myself that what the girl did was a good thing. But in the end I couldn't shake it, and still can't, I'm mad about it.

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posted by Meg at 8:42 PM ¤ Permalink ¤


  • At 8/29/2006 09:27:00 PM, Blogger Doxallo

    Oh wow......this hits a nerve with me, big time. First, I'm so sorry you and Hannah and her mom experienced this. In one way I question even the 'you have to hear this in order to get that' mentality, but even if I was ok with that - I think it wise to share a bible story of the love of God but not place a child on the spot like that. No 'confession' in that situation, in MY opinion, is thought out, heartfelt, or un-coerced.

    We have a ministry booth at our local fair -- they probably do some face painting, they have a clown - they tell a story...but the don't urge a sinners prayer on the spot to my knowledge.

    And as a mother, part of me resents the mere fact that it doesn't sound like they included Hannah's mom in the process at all! What about her role as the mother (guide, teacher, etc) of this child? What about HER heart and knoweldge of God?

    HMMMMMMMMMMMMMMM. This sort of gets me hot under the collar.

    I appreciate a ministry ummm, think its called servant evangelism. They have a schematic of ideas for serving -- standing with umbrellas at the grocery store on a rainy day, etc, and all they do is say something about God loving them and them loving others -- or God giving freely so they are giving freely. If asked, they offer what group or church they attend and a little card with the address/contact info. The ball is then totally in their court. They also have some ideas for reaching out to the community such as playing pictionary at public parks and getting any passersby that express interst to play along. just sharing. Ya know?

    You might consider contacting the organization and starting a dialogue. Just asking what their mission is and how they are going about it. Might do both you and them some good. :)

  • At 8/29/2006 11:49:00 PM, Blogger Michele L

    I know exactly how you feel. I have a 5 year old and a 3 year old. I also do the lessons for our preschool at church. One thing that has hit me and others, is the intensity of the stories, acceptance of Christ etc. that we place on these kids. I know last Easter I had an interesting situation with my grandmother. I had to pick her up one day after Easter. A conversation arose about whether we "do the Easter bunny". I said yes, because I personally have no issue with it. I don't know if she felt "I" wasn't getting the "message" to my children, but she preceded to tell them all about what Easter is about. "Christ dying for our sins" etc. I looked in the rear view mirror to see my kids staring back like deer in a head light.
    At that moment, I was so frustrated. The same ideas were indirectly pushed on me. I spent over 10 years after "accepting Christ", "saying the prayer" over and over, almost on a nightly basis. Just incase I did it wrong!
    I think that this is where the acceptance of Christ has gone haywire in some areas. We think if we get someone (no matter what age) to "accept Christ" they are "in". NEXT! I can say from personal experience and watching my children, I didn't even understand the concepts to any relevance until my 20's and I can tell you my kids can not comprehend what all that means!
    In daily life we would not let our kids be bogged down with topics over their heads, let them watch many things on TV or in movies. Somehow in church that changes. (My kids are still scared of Care Bear movies!)
    I personally would like to see my children raised "with Christ" and shown who Christ is. Loving, compassionate, accepting, Peaceful etc. I want them to form a relationship over time and not get the "ticket" way of thinking.
    I have heard this from my pastor but also read this in books. It makes so much sense. We try to put "accepting Christ" into a neat little package. "Here's the steps". If someone were to ask how we fell in love with a spouse etc. it wouldn't be that easy, and it would be unique to us. So why do we think that we can break down "accepting" and "creating a relationship" with Christ into something so easy, compact, and so universal to all?
    I know also from experience many times it is the "fear of Hell" factor and our urgency to "convert" just in case something happens to that person tomorrow. We don't trust God and his work within people so we bombard them.
    I really hope this creates a dialog for a better way! I am sad for such a disappointing situation.
    Sorry for the long note, another hot button for me!

  • At 8/30/2006 01:27:00 AM, Blogger sylvia skinner

    So sorry you had this experience. Last year at our church we threw a big party for the kids we gave Angel Tree presents to. We hired a Christian illusionist (kind of against my better judgement). We had a long talk with thim about what our goal was--show Christ's love by giving gifts to the children of prisoners--plain and simple. He gave his word that he would honor our request.

    Well, he put on a great show--until the end--when he started his "gospel presentation." First of all, he gave so much completely-over-anyone's-head theology that it was rediculous. He used his "tricks" to illustrate each point. Halfway through one of his "tricks" it wouldn't work. So, in the middle of telling the families how much God loves them, he gets angry and snaps at his wife. It was almost comical--if it hadn't been so sad.

    I felt awful. Since I was kind of in charge, I felt like it was a bait-and-switch. I was also angry because he had given us his word--so much for integrity. I guess giving the presentation at any cost was more important than integrity.

    At first I was going to tell him off. But, after I vented to my husband outside on my cell phone, I calmly went in and chatted with him while I helped him take down his props--it was quite a show--birds and all! I just tried to be kind and subtly suggest some things to think about. I hoped my kind response would speak into his life--I figured any kind of argument would undoubtedly go bad very fast. I guess he was doing the best he could and I think his heart was in the right place--but, I will sure be a lot more careful next time and listen to my gut!

  • At 8/30/2006 07:14:00 AM, Blogger wilsford

    when i was a teenager a friend invited me to a couple of church events where they loaded us up on the fun, then ended the evening with a guilt call—i mean, alter call.

    today, i think that kind of manipulation is the tame version of putting someone on the rack to wrack a confession of faith from their soul.

    faith through manipulation is not Christ in action. so sayeth the wilsford

  • At 8/30/2006 09:16:00 AM, Blogger mizliz

    As with others, so sorry that Hannah had this experience and had it linked in any way shape or form to "God's love". Sadly, all too common. It's one (of several) reasons why I despise 'children's sermons' or 'children's time' during Sunday worship; I've seen dreadful things pass for 'Christian education'. It is also some of the fodder for why I strongly oppose the local push for religious education in the public schools, albeit dressed as 'values education". But I digress. I don't have the cure or vaccination for this kind of evangelism-abuse (and it comes from all manner and stripe of theological address), but can only encourage you and Hannah's mother to talk with her and show her with your love, tolerance, and forgiveness of all God's children what God's love might look like using different lens. Please let us know how Hannah and all are with this. How lucky they are to have you as a friend!

  • At 8/30/2006 10:49:00 AM, Blogger caz

    What happened to Hannah is so wrong. I don't understand how any Bible-believing, Christ-following church could allow or applaud such behavior...even if it is of a traditional or conservative or modern mindset - it's just that, a man made idea completely nonexistent in the Word of God we supposedly hold so dear!

    Jesus gathered children around him, loved them, and called us to be like them for they will inherit the kingdom of God. How does baiting them with treats and then offering condemnation align with Christ. uhg! I am with the rest of you...this burns me up!

    I grew up in charismatic churches. When I was 9 we moved to a new city and started visiting churches. I was put in one children's sunday school where they asked who spoke in tongues. I didn't, so they took me into another room with a bunch of adults and prayed over me trying to get me to speak in tongues. They wouldn't quit, and apparently the holy spirit wasn't showing up, so in my childlike way I just started babbling to make them happy. I remember crying the entire drive home because I felt so afraid and ashamed of myself.

    This kind of behavior isn't loving, it's a power trip over those weaker than oneself.

  • At 8/30/2006 10:49:00 AM, Blogger caz

    This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

  • At 8/30/2006 12:27:00 PM, Blogger Julie

    full confession here - I used to be the person at those fairs (and church, backyard, and housing projects) doing the face painting and presenting the "gospel" to children, pushing them for a response. I showed them the picture of heaven with literal gold streets and mansions that look like southern plantations. I dangled the fear of hell and the rewards of heaven in front of children and then asked them if they wanted to ask Jesus into their hearts. I had the formula down and I was good at it.

    Now I am sick about what I did. About presenting such a manipulative warped picture of God to children. Of treating relationship with Christ like it is a magic spell that must merely be recited correctly to work.

    My concept of the gospel has changed, my ideas about salvation have changed, my opinions about manipulative uses of rewards and punishments have changed, and my theories of children's ministry have changed. I am thankful all of that changed before I was an actual children's director, but there were years before that when I thought that sort of thing was okay, needful, and blessed. Now I am wary of most children's programs and will screen any vbs, bible club, or sunday school very very carefully before I let my child attend or recommend it to others.

  • At 8/30/2006 01:08:00 PM, Blogger Doxallo

    {{{Julie}} hugs to you.

  • At 8/30/2006 03:05:00 PM, Blogger Michele L

    We do what we know! This is exactly why as a person leading the lessons in our preschool, I am being very cautious about what we are doing and which stories we present. Maybe it helps because my kids are in that range. My daughter is in a new room now, and I can't say I am happy with everything she is bringing home. Our church is in transition, so I am being gracious, but I hope and pray we can move some of this out soon for all of our kids.
    This year we did the typical VBS just like most churches in the area. However, I was the story leader, and well let's just say we revamped the stories, and with my pastor's help, sort of did away with the "Accept Jesus" day that was included. Instead we tried to present what a life with Christ part of it looks like ie, loving our neighbor, others, people we don't even like etc.
    I found it sort of sad that even though we tried to gear it a different direction and nurture the relationship part, many of the older kids still had the typical answers.
    Following Christ meant:
    He died to save us.
    We are sinners.
    We should pray to him and worship him.

    I found it challenging to get out of the "ticket to Heaven" concepts, but was excited to have room to break out of it and teach a different way.
    My focus for our preschoolers are Love, Thanks, Kindness, sharing, etc. not just what Jesus does for us, but even moreso what we can do to show Jesus in our lives. Seeking more the "Kingdom come" not the "so that when I die" concepts.

  • At 8/30/2006 04:52:00 PM, Blogger Sue Densmore

    Wow -

    So much in common here. I, too, have grown past the simplistic "ticket into heaven" concept. Jesus didn't ask anyone to pray a prayer. He asked people to believe in Him and do His work. We seem to have lots to say about praying to accept Christ and not so much to say about doing His work in the evangelical sub-culture, eh?

    May we all get past this and strive to show the love...

  • At 8/30/2006 08:53:00 PM, Blogger Meg

    Ladies..thank you all so much for your posts. You know, I was so angry about this situation with Hannah, who is not my own daughter..I didn't even think how hard this type of situation must be for those of you who have children.

    I find it hard sometimes to transition out of a "get your ticket punched mindset" to understand that we are about living out God's Kingdom. I told my husband that I feel like I need to talk to Hannah's parents and explain why it made me angry, but I just don't know what to say as I still feel so confused because I am "trained" if you will to say similar things that the face painting girl said. I do feel like this is an open door to talk with them more about our life in Christ.

    So anyway..that is where I am now in this situation..I wonder if I should wait until they bring it up?

    Anyway..thanks so much everyone!

  • At 8/30/2006 09:49:00 PM, Blogger Michele L

    Do what you feel God leads you to. Maybe pray and see what comes of it. Maybe taking some quite time to go over it...If it arises I would just be as honest as you can. Maybe share your feelings about Christ and what you feel accepting Him means. Maybe let her know that you were just upset because of the child's age and that it was innapropriate ie, not including the mother, a heavy topic for kids etc. I don't think most of us are throwing out "accepting Christ" and being followers, I just think what it has been reduced to many times "misses everything". I pray for some peace and resolution.

  • At 9/02/2006 12:20:00 AM, Blogger ReneeM

    interesting discussion. Hubby and I decided not to use any official prayers or "ask Jesus into my heart" type phraseology... which was great and hard at the same time... cause I wanted to know if my boy GOT IT or not!! - which of course, those don't really tell you. BUT!!

    So, he has gotten a lot... more than I thought a 6 yr old could. And hasn't "gotten" the things I would normally think fo as the elementary things. SO there you go. We all learn and grow and understand stuff as God reveals it, and I suppose its no different for a 6 yr old!

    so he went to a "kids"day at a neighboring church (ours is a house church) and in the story tent he went, and at the end he wanted to pray (for the group)

    "Jesus, I don't want to be dirty anymore. Please make my heart clean. Amen"

    and then he wanted to hear the story all over again. You know? I think he DEFINITELY got it!! the crux anyway.

  • At 9/04/2006 10:44:00 AM, Blogger Charlotte Wyncoop

    I've got an 18 month old and a 3 1/2 yr old, it scares me to think of what my children will hear. I want them to have a real relationship with God, one they'll hold onto for the rest of their lives. I've been trained in the "proper presentation" and come out the other side very wary of the bad results I've seen.

    It's so hard, knowing that almost every church I go into they get some weird message:
    a consumer christian message - "the ticket to the good life is God"
    or a scary god message "do this or burn forever"
    or a magic formula, you are still in control message "pray this and you get what you want"
    or something equally bizarre. And it tears my heart that our society mirrors or exalts these same kind of messages.

    It's hard to remember that God redeems and restores even this stuff, and He'll take my kids safely through it.


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