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Hi, this is Pastor Tamera Kraft for the next few weeks. I’m going to share excerpts of a podcast site interview I did with my publishing company about my curriculum, Building Pentecostal Foundations. Today’s curriculum is The Christmas Tree Advent. If you would like to buy The Christmas Tree Advent, I’m going to give you a code to get 20% off until the end of November. The code is CHRISTMAS1 (all caps)
Michelle: This is Michelle Levigne,
Tamera: and this is Tamera Lynn Kraft.
Michelle: This week, and for the next several episodes of Books on the Ridge, I’m going to be flying solo because our special guest to be interviewed is none other than our beloved Tamera Kraft, fellow guilty party at Mount Zion Ridge Press. We’re going to be talking to Tamera from the other side of the desk as an author of children curriculum. Welcome, Tamera.
Tamera: I’m so excited to be on this podcast. It’s just a dream come true.
Michelle: OK, let’s get started. Tamera’s biography: Pastor Tamera Kraft has been a children’s pastor for over 30 years. She’s the director of a ministry called Revival Fire for Kids where she mentors other children leaders, teaches workshops, and is a children’s ministry consultant, and children revivalist. She’s a recipient of the 2007 National Children’s Leaders Association Shephard’s Cup for Lifetime Achievement in Children’s Ministry. Tamera hosts a children’s ministry podcast called ignite Kidman available on most podcast providers and provides coaching and resources for ignite Kidman patron subscribers. Find out more about this at http://revivalfire4kids.net/ignite.
In this first episode, we’re going to be talking about Tamera’s newest curriculum, The Christmas Tree Advent. Maybe we should back up a little bit. Tell us a little bit about Building Foundations Curriculum. Why did you decide we needed another children’s church curriculum, and how has Building Foundations different from the others.
Tamera: Most curriculum nowadays is either behavior modification or let’s go to Disneyland in children’s church because it’s more one-size-fits-all. It fits whatever denomination, whatever belief, whatever doctrine you have so, basically, what they do is they water things down and teach kids how to be good. They don’t really teach kids how to have a relationship with Jesus Christ. My building foundations curriculum was written because I don’t adhere to that, and I never have. We teach discipleship and doctrinal foundations, and because I am Pentecostal, I also emphasize the presence of God and the relationship with God, not head knowledge. I create the curriculum to fit Pentecostal services which sometimes are longer than the average evangelical church service.
Michelle: You mentioned not being Disney. What exactly do you mean by Disney. I can imagine considering how Disney is changing things like the Marvel Universe, but what do you what do you mean by not Disney.
Tamera: Sam Luce who is a children’s ministry Blogger summed it up really well. Basically, the mentality of church nowadays is we have to bring kids in, and we have to make sure they have fun so they want to come back. So we do things big and over the top like Disney does. That’s what I mean by Disney, not the bad stuff even about Disney, but the over the top stuff. We want to make things over the top so kids will have fun, and basically, the only thing they learn by the time they’re 12 and get out of church is God loves them. Truthfully, they should know God loves them when they get out of the preschool department. Children Church as a time to learn doctrinal truths that go deeper in their faith. What they’re doing is creating an illiterate group of children. When they graduate from children church, all they know is a few Bible stories like Noah’s ark and Jonah and the Whale, and maybe David and Goliath.
Michelle: Absolutely, they need to be able to apply the things that they’re going to need. When you and I were in high school. we learned things like that, and we should have been prepared for when we went to college because we’re going to be attacked in college our beliefs. We’re going to be attacked if we didn’t go to a Christian School. The kids are getting their beliefs attacked in elementary school now. It’s absolutely necessary, and unfortunately, we can’t depend on the parents to teach the kids because the parents might not know the basic foundations. They’re depending on the Sunday School to teach them the foundations.
Tamera: If all they know is that God loves them, they’re going to be hurting when people say, “Well, God loves me too even though I’m not following Him, even though I haven’t given my life to Him. What makes me any different.”
Michelle: So the big question, why did you write The Christmas Tree Advent? What makes it stand out from other allegedly Christmas themed curriculum for the children.
Tamera: Most Christmas curriculum for kids is light and fluffy and teaches the traditional Christmas story including all the inaccuracies. This curriculum does that too as far as teaching the Christmas story, but it goes deeper and shows kids what the first advent, Christ’s first coming, is all about and how it affects their lives and their relationship with God. We don’t perpetuate the myths around Christmas, but we do teach about why certain traditions are practiced by Christians and how they came about. We teach what Christmas is really all about.
Michelle: I was lucky enough to read this curriculum because I got to edit it, so I know what it contains, and some of it’s fascinating, things I didn’t even know. Part of your curriculum is celebrating Christmas and using the Christmas tree in the decorations to illustrate Christ first advent. Many people think the Christmas tree came out of the druid tree worship, so can you talk to us about that particular question and maybe an objection people might have? A lot of Christians are coming against Christmas now because they say well it’s a druid holiday that we just adopted, and they don’t understand the real history behind the Christmas tree.
Tamera: One thing I wanted to do was point that out so that when people say things like that, the kids would understand why they really use a Christmas tree in their celebration. Druids did worship trees and the winter solstice, and many Christians have been taught that the Christmas tree and even the date of Christmas came from a mixture of the two, but that’s not exactly true. It’s sad that this misunderstanding and history keeps some Christians fighting the celebration of Christ’s birth which we should be celebrating.
First, about the date. It is true Christ was not born on December 25th. When druids became Christians, they wanted to celebrate Christ’s birth, not the winter solstice, so they picked a date, but we don’t know when Christ was born. If we did, we could make sure we picked the right date to celebrate his birthday, but the important thing is to celebrate the first coming of Christ, not what date we celebrate. So to me, that doesn’t even enter into it.
As far as the tree we decorate is the evergreen. The druids worship oak trees. There are many stories about the origin of the Christmas tree. One of my favorites is about Boniface and the Thor’s Oak. This happened around 700AD. Boniface was a missionary to Germany where the druids worshipped So in 725, to stop their sacrifices of their sacred Donar Oak, Boniface chopped down the tree. That really upset them, but the story goes, with one mighty blow, he failed the massive oak, and as the tree split, a beautiful young fir tree sprang from its center. He told the people that this lovely evergreen with his branches pointing to heaven was indeed a holy tree, the tree of the Christ child, a symbol of His promise of eternal life. He instructed them to carry the Evergreen from the wilderness into their homes and to surround it with gifts, symbols of love and kindness.
So that’s why we have a Christmas tree, but that’s just one instance. One thing all these stories have in common is the druids worshipped oak trees, but we use evergreens to symbolize Christ’s birth. We do that for many reasons. First of all, Jesus gives eternal life just as the Evergreen is eternally green, and Christ was hung on a tree to forgive us of our sins. These traditional trees also symbolize that, and every decoration we put on the Christmas tree was started by a Christian, the traditional decorations anyway, was started by a Christian who used those decorations to symbolize something in the Christmas story. So, rather than teach the Christmas is wrong, I prefer to teach why we celebrate. Throughout the Old Testament God commanded his people to celebrate these great events that happened. Christ’s first advent, His birth, is one of the greatest reasons to celebrate.
Michelle: Absolutely. I’m thinking about my brother who teaches younger children in our church, and I have to help him with his read the curriculum to him because he’s dyslexic, but there’s so much that they offer to the children for telling the Bible stories, and there’s so much that the kids need to learn and the application and making the curriculum relevant to the season I think is very important just to fight anything that the children are going to be getting in school or any kind of you know social clubs they might belong to. I know, years ago, there was a trend put Christ back in Christmas. We need to keep doing that so is there anything else that you want to point out about The Christmas Tree Advent that makes your Christmas children’s church curriculum different from what’s out there?
Tamera: First, we teach the meaning of advent. Advent means coming, so Christmas is the first advent or coming of Christ to the earth when He was born, and so we’re celebrating his first advent. Too many evangelicals stay away from the advent word and the advent candles and celebrations. They don’t understand the symbolism, but it’s an important part of celebrating Christmas as Christmas.
Also, we talked about the different traditions for celebrating and teach what they represent. That way the children know why they put different balls on the Christmas tree, why they put an Angel or a star on top, why they use an Evergreen tree, all these different things. We teach them to understand the Christian symbolism. We also teach the real Bible story.
For instance, the wise men didn’t show up until a year or two after Christ was born. They were not at the Manger scene, although it makes a pretty nativity, and the Bible doesn’t say how many there were, only that they brought three types of gifts. It’s important to teach children the true story and not add all these fables because if we only teach half-truths, when they find out the real truth, they’ll think of the Christmas story as a fairy tale. We don’t want to do that. We want to teach them the truth, but most importantly, we teach how Christmas affects these children and their relationship with Jesus Christ.
Michelle: Absolutely, I remember getting in arguments with people who were adamantly against having the wise men in the nativity scene and other people who are like you’re gutting the Christmas story. It’s right there in scripture says, and somebody pointed out that with the shepherds, it’s the baby, but with the wise men, it’s the child and his mother in the house which means they moved. I mean do you take a newborn child and move him.
Tamera: Absolutely, and you know, I have wise men in my nativity too, but what I do is I put them outside of the Manger scene where the shepherds are. They’re coming toward the Christ child, but they’re not there yet. Not quite there yet.
Michelle: How long did it take you to put the curriculum together? Did you do a lot of research ahead of time or was this research you already had maybe waiting that you? Did you put it aside saying this is going to be useful someday? Did you set out doing research, and did you learn anything that you didn’t know as you were putting the book together?
Tamera: First, about how long it took, I have blogged and taught all of this so long because before I was a children evangelist, I was a children’s pastor for 20 years. I researched and taught this constantly. So, I did research years ago. So when I actually sat down to write, it only took me about a month, but that is not the norm. As far as what I learned that I didn’t know, one of the most exciting things I learned was about the Wisemen. the wisemen were from the East, so many people think China, or the Orient, or something like that, but it’s more likely they came from Persia. I read somewhere, many years earlier, the prophet Daniel was in charge of these wise men and probably taught them to expect the King of Kings that was born going to be born in Bethlehem. That may not be true but it it’s more likely then some Chinese people just figured it out. So it’s fun to speculate.
Michelle: I can imagine people over the years coming up with different ideas. So we need to get down to the little technical details the people who are interested in using this curriculum which is available now. We have it available in PDF and in book form, and buying the book will give you access to all the resources. So what can you tell us about the downloadable resources and the crafts that go along with the curriculum.
Tamera: As far as the downloadable resources and crafts, I do that in all my curriculum because it’s very difficult to put it all in one bundle where they can buy So what I will do is I will have a link and in this curriculum I even have a QRL code they could use to get the downloadable resources that are on DropBox. In those downloadable resources, we have family devotion handouts that they can give to their students to take home so their family can do devotions based on what they’ve learned that week. We also have different media JPEG images that they can use with the different verses on them, rules, a JPEG image they can use as their opening slide if they use video presentation program like ProPresenter or PowerPoint. Whatever they use, this will work. They could even print off the color photos.
To listen to more of this episode, check out the Ignite Kidmin Podcast.