Wednesday, July 15, 2015

A Response to "But we've always done it this way!"

Picture Book: Shh! We Have a Plan

Author & Illustrator: Chris Haughton

Summary: In very few words but vivid pictures, this clever story begins with four companions creeping in a dark woods. Three have nets. The fourth, much smaller and in the rear, does not. An extraordinary bird is spied. The smaller figure immediately offers a verbal greeting but is quickly shushed by the other three. Their plan, demonstrated time and again as they follow the bird, is to catch it in a net. After a refrain of, “Ready one, ready two, ready three... go!” they always fail comically and miserably. Ultimately the little character breaks from the pack and engages the bird with an outstretched hand of breadcrumbs and a “one, two, three.” More birds gather and are fed. Ironically, the flock of birds turn on the three aggressors with a “Ready one, ready two, ready three.” The human-like characters run away and then spy a squirrel. The three quickly shush the little character and again offer familiar assurance, “We have a plan.” They haven’t yet learned the possibility of a new plan.

Hanna’s Comments: Now and then I run across a picture book that resonates on many levels. This is such a book. I recently read in the writings of spiritual author Linda Douty that failure is caused by the refusal to try anything new. That is the central message of this book, especially when new ideas involve compassion and relationship and  when old ideas don’t have compassion and relationship as priorities. This powerful book could stir within a group of children or adults (such as your governing body or small groups) important conversations about evangelism, greeting visitors, integrating new members, worship styles, and even the manner in which you consider your successes (numbers vs. relationships, dollars vs. spiritual depth). I think it’s interesting that all the approaches involve 3 steps. Might this represent a hopeful representation of the trinity or a tendency to wrap up our plans (and sermons) in neat packages of three?

There are other possibilities for application here. The smallest character (Be careful not to assume they are all male.) could easily be a Christ figure, one who offers a new approach toward building the Kingdom of God. The scene in the book with the flock of beautiful birds is particularly potent. Like the Israelites of the Hebrew Scriptures, the disciples of the New Testament, and us, we are slow to break bad habits and old paradigms. Old ways and assumptions are hard to leave behind.

Original Publisher & Date of Publication: Candlewick Press, 2014

Age & Grade Appropriateness: 3 and up, Pre and up

# of Pages: 40

Available in Spanish? Not at present

Formats other than Book: None at present

PBT Category: Award Winner, Fresh off the Press  

Scripture Connections: Any scripture where a new idea is being offered or resisted or a negative pattern of behavior is being criticized such as... Behold, I am doing a new thing (Isaiah 43:19); woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! (Matthew 23:13); those who are in Christ are new creations. The old has passed away, the new has come. (2 Corinthians 5:17)

Idea(s) for Application: Read this book to a group of ministers or leaders who need some lighthearted conversation about the battles they must wage when up against the refrain, “But we’ve always done it this way!”

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