Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Rabbits or Elephants

At my homeschool conference last month, I signed up for a newsletter from Passing the Baton. This week's email was really good and I thought I'd share it with you:

Rabbits or Elephants?

Busting the "All or Nothing" Mentality

Educators tend to load people down with complex methodologies and procedures. People get intimidated and freeze.

Fortunately, the task of passing the baton of godly faithfulness to the next generation isn't as complicated as it sometimes seems.

Don't let the fact that you can't do everything cause you to do nothing! Instead of looking for "elephant" experiences, start passing the "small baton" through lots of "rabbit" experiences.

Here's what I mean by that:

Focus on the Small, Not the Big

Tony and Felicity Dale open their book The Rabbit and the Elephant with the story of teaching at a church planting conference in rural India:

"Imagine you take two elephants..."

The audience perks up. They sense a story is coming.

"For our purposes, they are a male and a female."

Small titter.

"And you put them in that room behind us" (pointing to a tiny kitchen off the main room).

More laughter. They know you couldn't possibly fit one elephant into that room, let alone two!

"You give them plenty to eat and drink and you shut the door on them. Three years later, you come back and open the door. What comes out?"

A number of people call out something. We look to our interpreter for help.

"They say that three elephants come out. Mom, Dad, and a baby."

"That's good. In three years, Mom and Dad elephant have had one baby! Now, instead of two elephants, let's pretend you put two rabbits in the room."

They start to chuckle. Already they can anticipate what is coming.

"At the end of three years, when you open the door, you had better run for your life, because millions of rabbits will explode out of that door."

The room erupts in laughter!

The Dales conclude: "They have also caught the point. Something that is large and complex is hard to reproduce. Something that is small and simple multiplies easily."

The Rabbit Strategy: How to Pass the Small Baton

Obviously children need to understand the essential principles of the Christian faith as embodied in the Nicene Creed. But because this is complicated and takes a long time, many parents and teachers do nothing at all.

Yet you can pass the small baton through everyday experiences by remembering a variet of the old speech-class dictum: "Tell them what you're going to tell them, tell them, tell them what you told them."

1. Tell them--explain your convictions
2. Take them--gain experience together
3. Talk to them--debrief the experience

A Personal Example

My young son and I arrived at the homeschool conference a day early to sightsee. Leaving the hotel that morning we encountered three women with a flat tire on their dilapidated car. The weather was sweltering. A small baby was inside the car, crying. The three women tried in vain to figure out how to retrieve the spare tire and replace the flat.

I said, "Son, we know how to change a tire. Let's do it for them."

The three ladies seemed relieved when we asked permission to help. We jacked up the car, put on the spare, and helped them put away their tools. They thanked us profusely, hugged us and tried to give us money.

"We'd rather not take any money," I said. "We just wanted to help you because we love Jesus. Maybe you can go to church on Sunday and give the money as an offering to thank the Lord for His goodness."

They promised they would. As we went back into the hotel to wash up and change clothes, I asked my son:

"What was that experience like for you?"

"Hot! But it felt kind of good because the ladies appreciated what we did."

"Why were the women so grateful?"

"Because they didn't know how to fix the tire and they were glad someone knew what to do."

"What would have been the right thing to do if they had NOT been grateful?"

"We were doing it for Jesus, so it would have been right to help whether they are thankful or not."

"Where are some other areas you think we could serve?"

"I bet there are a lot of people who are frustrated and afraid because they don't know what to do. We should pay attention to that and be kind to them."

I had to fight the impulse to moralize endlessly about it. The goal was to reflect together with my son about how we could better serve others. Simple is better.

Remember the Rabbits:
  • Tell them
  • Take them
  • Talk about it
Small is big. Start multiplying godly faithfulness by passing the small baton.

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