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hope for churches in stress


This is the story of Zeke, a hand puppet.

This is not a tall tale. It is not made up or exaggerated. It is a true story, one that teaches a useful lesson about resourcefulness, creativity, and serendipity—stirred up by the Holy Spirit—that is able to be replicated anytime in our life and service (Acts 2:17-18).

Zeke’s story begins with a problem, the havoc created by a pandemic. One repercussion was to disrupt the normal gatherings and activities of churches. Like other churches, Millersville Brethren in Christ Church scrambled to adjust to Covid-19 restrictions.

One challenge was to find alternative ways to serve children. Team leaders engaged their imaginations. They brainstormed options and considered workable solutions. They knew that problems, unsetting as they can be, create an opportunity for innovation and change.

With a goal to serve people across the lifespan, MBIC looked for solutions within the parameters of this aim: “MBIC is a great place for kids—and all of us.” Potential solutions were measured by the criterion of valuing all ages in a multi-generational church.

The hope was to provide solid biblical teaching that could capture (and keep) the children’s attention so their faith to germinate and grow. The decision was made to devote a segment of online (zoom) worship to kids, ideally, without sidelining the adults.

Starting with the structure and substance of a children’s curriculum, the storyteller—“Miss Stephanie”—did the hard work of condensing the Bible lesson into ten minutes. She also created visual aids to strengthen the impact with a clear and easy-to-remember focus.

At the suggestion of a colleague to further enhance the lessons, Stephanie went to the supply closet and, from a box of hand puppets, chose a zebra, whom she named Zeke. With her husband as unseen collaborator and voice, they reframed Bible lessons in the classic format of an earnest "lead" and a comedic sidekick.

Zeke turned out to be clever, quirky, and funny. Magical moments in the interplay between storyteller and puppet delighted children and charmed adults. In this serendipity of the Spirit, Zeke soared from anonymity into a beloved headliner—in common lingo, a star.

The unforeseen outcome is that, week by week, children and adults are hearing the good news about Jesus. What started as a problem has culminated in a new element of worship for a church that seriously desires for everyone, of all ages, to be fully engaged.

The next time you bump into a problem, think about Zeke. Remind yourself that setbacks can be opportunities to reimagine some aspect of your life and witness to have a greater impact for Jesus.


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