Thursday, March 24, 2022

A Form for Youth & Children's Pastors to Use with Students

Have you ever provided an objective check list for your students to use to see whether they are Christians? We just created a form that students can use to find out. It is accessed on our Walking Trail by a sign with a QR. We are adding a set of interactive QR codes over the next several weeks that will enhance what the main signs explain about the Christian religion and its history especially in Kentucky. Every sign is written in objective, secular and non-devotional language. This form is like that. It is respectful and clear. It helps students evaluate whether what they believe agrees with Christianity's core tenets. They can arrive at one of three conclusions: they are clearly identifiable as Christians; they understand that they are not Christians but they intend to continue to think about the claims of Christianity; or they understand more about Christianity but they do not agree with its claims so they know that they are not Christians. Try it out and leave a comment about whether you think it is effective.

Wednesday, January 19, 2022

Youth Groups Should Consider the Impact of Christianity on Communities and Cultures

 The Christian message started to be proclaimed in Jerusalem on the morning of the Jewish Feast of Shavuot in the year 33AD. Within fifty years, adherents to the message could be found in Asia, Europe and Africa. Whole communities embraced Christianity. Then they destroyed the artifacts of their pagan religions. These stories can be read in the New Testament. They are also documented by contemporary writers and historians. 

The message has continued to upend lives and cultures in the two thousand years since. One example of a culture challenged and changed is the Auca Indian Tribe of Ecuador whose members massacred a team of missionaries in 1956 only to be converted by their widows in the 1960s. The story is told here. Other modern examples of the impact of what happens when people make the Christian message their personal mission and the template for their lives are documented by the Sentinel Group through carefully researched, powerful documentary videos. Two of them are about Kentucky Communities. "It's Only Cookie Dough" is about Lynch, Kentucky. "An Appalachian Dawn" is about Manchester, Kentucky. Both of these videos are appropriate for high school youth groups and could be the catalysts for conversations about what might happen if they acted on the claims of the Christian message to bring redemption and restoration to both individuals and communities. 

The Kentucky Faith & Public History Education Project is committed to creating and disseminating resources about Christianity and about the Christian history of Kentucky in particular. Our books, our walking trail and the immersive hands-on field trip opportunities (field trips will begin later this year) are all carefully aligned with the Kentucky State Curriculum Standards for Social Studies. Unlike other textbooks about the Bible used in public schools, our resources are designed to show the impact of the Christian message on famous individuals who attributed their faith to their undeniably successful achievements. We agree that all students need to be familiar with the Bible as literature. It informs many of the metaphors in the canons of British and American literature. It allows the subjects of many Western artistic masterpieces and many important pieces of music to be understood. The Bible also has provenance as an historic text and can be used in conjunction with documents and artifacts from the ancient world to augment, query and confirm what we know about it. The Bible also claims to be a living revelation of the living God, its words living and active, penetrating as the sharpest of swords. It is the impact made on Kentucky by people whose lives were upended and transformed by this mystical message that our project tracks and traces. 

You can explore the Kentucky Faith & Public History Education Project on our website. You can keep abreast of what we are doing on Facebook, and you can follow our mischievous mascot, Scamp the Squirrel, on Twitter.

Tuesday, December 7, 2021

No Christmas Anywhere Without the Christian Message

December is the month churches decorate their sanctuaries and classrooms to celebrate the birth of Jesus Christ. It's the season for singing carols and putting on nativity plays. More people than usual typically attend church on Christmas Eve. Youth and children's leaders remind their charges that the message of Christmas is that God loves us so much that He sent His only begotten Son and that whoever believes in Him will not perish but have everlasting life. That is the Christian gospel in a nutshell, recorded in the Bible in John 3:16. Most children who grow up attending a church have that verse memorized.  Perhaps a good thing to talk about with the people in your church or youth group is what it would be like if Jesus had not been born. Questions like the following may be helpful.

What if there had been no baby in the manger some 2021 years ago? 

Would we have a vision for peace on earth and good will to men if the angel had not proclaimed it to the shepherds? 

Would the descendants of ancient Israel still be awaiting the coming of the Messiah today if Herod had not interrogated the magi when they arrived at his palace after having followed the star to ask where the prophetic scriptures predicted they would be able to find the newborn King of the Jews?

We would not be scurrying around spending money to buy gifts for people. We would not be decorating our houses with lights and garlands. We would not be making cookies, stuffing turkeys, and baking pies. There would be no Notre Dame to restore in Paris, no Westminster Abbey in London, and no Crystal Cathedral in California. No pope, no prayer mountain in South Korea, and no Salvation Army. No Santa Claus, Charlie Brown's Christmas, or Grinch. 

In actual fact, there would be no Christmas anywhere without the Christian message. But since there was a baby born in Bethlehem (it is a historical fact, documented in ancient Roman and Jewish records), and since that child grew up fulfilling the Jewish prophecies about the Messiah, and since the Christian message of the resurrection of Jesus Christ has been turning the world (and individual's lives) upside down for two millennia, perhaps there are other claims and prophecies left for wise men to contemplate today.

Tuesday, November 2, 2021

Books every youth and children's ministry leader should have

 Does your church have a library? Does it contain books about famous Christians written in language that is accessible to your students? The Kentucky Faith & Public History Education Project series of books about famous Kentucky Christians is written at the 2nd to 4th grade reading level. They are high-interest easy-to-read chapter books. Each is just 32 pages long. Each follows the same pattern. Four fourth graders are charged with preparing a display for a state-wide contest about an individual they know nothing about. The books chart their progress using the four-part inquiry process at the core of the Kentucky State Curriculum Standards for Social Studies: ask important questions, hunt for facts, show proof and tell what you've learned. Each book connects the life of a famous Kentuckian to a typical classroom scenario. Each book communicates the Christian message in objective, non-devotional language appropriate to a public school classroom. Priced at just $6/book, they are affordable for everyone. Eight books have been published in the series. Four are about women, four are about men. Four are about African Americans, four are about white Americans. You can find out more at our website here or go directly to We are adding four books per year to the series so collect them all.

Tuesday, October 5, 2021

Many famous Kentucky Christians experienced very difficult childhoods

How many of your students would you say are experiencing difficult childhoods? People like Harlan Sanders shared that experience. His father died when he was very young. He had to help his mother care for his younger siblings which caused him to start working when he was ten. He did not attend high school. Yet, he went on to found Kentucky Fried Chicken and he ended up a millionaire. He is just one example of many individuals who overcame obstacles that we at the Kentucky Faith & Public History Education Project talk about. Many of the famous Kentucky Christians we profile on our website and in the FKCC series of easy-reader, high interest chapter books also had difficult childhoods but they went on to become successful, contributing individuals. Consider the following:

Simon Kenton ran away from home after thinking he murdered his brother-in-law. It took decades for him to discover that no one had died. Meanwhile, he became a significant early Kentucky pioneer. The FKCC Book 1, Big Bully, portrays his life.

Elisha Green was enslaved from birth until he purchased his own freedom as an adult. His enslaved wife and children were sold away from him several times. The FKCC Book 2, New Boots, is his story.

Dottie Rambo's father kicked her out of the house when she was 12 for refusing to sing secular songs after she became a born-again Christian. The FKCC Book 3, Hurt Feelings, is her story.

Effie Waller Smith grew up in a happy family but her husband was murdered, their baby died and she had to navigate the challenges of being an African American in segregated Kentucky. Her story is told in the FKCC Book 4, Picked Last.

The first four books are available here now. Four more books will be available in time for Christmas.

Thursday, September 16, 2021

Blind Spots or What do youth group members think about people who claim to be Christians but hold opposing viewpoints on core values, norms, and behaviors?

How do you handle questions from your youth group members about when people who each claim to be Christians have serious differences of opinion about what God expects and requires? This question is at the root of our work at the Kentucky Faith & Public History Education Project because we follow a specific set of criteria for selecting whom to present as famous Kentucky Christians from the past. Because we focus on past Christians, we also have to navigate changing norms and beliefs. What is unacceptable today (slavery, for example) was an issue about which Christians disagreed in the past. What is acceptable today (how we dress, for example) is an issue about which Christians used to be more divided. Our criteria for who is selected as a famous Kentucky Christian for our project are as follows:

  • The individual must have lived, worked or been born in Kentucky. 
  • Their Christian faith must be documented. We search for their own words to explain how they first came to faith and then what changed about their lives because of their faith. If we cannot find quotations or written texts by the individual, we look for statements from people who knew them personally. 
  • They must have contributed to the community in some way that makes their reputation famous.
  • Finally, their legacy should also connect, in some way to their faith.
  •  In addition to these non-negotiables, we are committed to include men and women, African Americans, white Americans, American Indians and new Americans. 

It is impossible to tell a story about human beings without bumping up against behaviors and beliefs that dismay us today. Slavery, Jim Crow, the denial of basic rights to women, and the way the United States dominated and abused the American Indians are just four examples of issues that we call shameful today but that divided people, including Christians, in the past. 

For example, Zachary Taylor's First Lady, Peggy Taylor, was a woman of prayer. She influenced the founding of the first Episcopal Church in Baton Rouge, Louisiana. She may have been instrumental in the president's proclamation calling for a national day of prayer and fasting to address the cholera pandemic in 1849. But Peggy Taylor owned slaves, inherited slaves, and was not known to have emancipated slaves. Does this moral failing (that had plenty of adherents among Christian people and denominations prior to the Civil War) discredit Peggy Taylor's faith? Or does it demonstrate a blind spot that was strengthened by the culture she lived in? 

Kentucky's Christian history is not a Black or a White story. It is not a male or a female story. It is not a Protestant or a Catholic story. Christians might say that Kentucky's Christian history is a God story. It is a story that must navigate all the failures and frailties of the human condition. This is difficult to process, especially for teenagers, but necessary to understand. As Jesus is recorded as having said, "No one is good but God alone", so we must each come to realize that the Christian message does not attempt to portray its adherents as perfect and faithful representations of the God of the Bible. The Christian message is clear that no Christian can represent God accurately or perfectly all the time and that every Christian has moments when they are, in fact, abysmal reflections of their God. 

Today we reject the notion that enslaving others is compatible with the Christian message. This makes us harsh judges of people like Peggy Taylor but does it disqualify her as a Christian? 

Thursday, May 27, 2021

Clark Karsner - Combining a Passion for Aviation with a Passion for God


Perhaps your students think that only pastors, Sunday School teachers, and missionaries are responsible to tell people about God, but this is not a biblical opinion. According to the New Testament, the Christian message can be shared by anyone. It does not take a pastor, a nun, or a member of the clergy. The Christian message does not need to be shared using a pulpit, a sermon or an evangelistic campaign or television broadcast.

Harry Clark Karsner’s life is an example of a person who combined his passion for aviation with his passion for God. He learned to fly a little Piper Cub single-engine plane in 1934, the year after he graduated from Monterrey High School in Owen County, Kentucky. A year later he earned his commercial pilot’s license. Within less than five years, he was teaching aviation. He taught in President Franklin Roosevelt’s Civilian Pilot Training Program and, during World War Two, he was an Army Air Corps flight instructor. After the war, he built an airstrip and a hangar on his farm in Owen County. He erected a large sign on the side of the hangar that was visible from Highway 27. It said: “Christ is the answer”. After meeting evangelist Louis Arnold, Karsner collaborated with him to broadcast the Christian message from the skies over northern Kentucky, southern Indiana, and southern Ohio starting in 1948. This required figuring out how to mount large amplifiers from an Aeronica Champion plane, recording five-minute sermons preached by Pastor Arnold and hymns sung by Mrs. Karsner, and putting aside the time to fly in what everyone called the Gospel Plane. In 1959, Karsner was named the Kentucky State Aeronautics Commissioner. At the May 26, 2012 ceremony when a highway marker about the Karsner Air Field was installed on Highway 27, Bonnie Riddle said that Karsner “brought aviation to Owen County and the Gospel message to mankind.”

Can your students think of other lay people who combine a passion for God with another skill or career path? Do they find Karsner’s life inspiring? How?

The fifth book in the FKCC Book Club series of easy-reader chapter books about famous Kentucky Christians, Great Idea – the Story of H. Clark Karsner, by Lesley Barker PhD., will be available soon on Amazon along with the other books in the series. These books are great additions to any church or classroom library.

The Kentucky Faith & Public History Education Project Walking Trail and Eye Spy Game will be free and open to the public at 616 Clintonville Road, Paris KY 40361. The Grand Opening and Ribbon Cutting Ceremony will take place on Sunday, July 25, 2021 at six o’clock in the evening. We invite you to come and to plan to return often with your students.


A Form for Youth & Children's Pastors to Use with Students

Have you ever provided an objective check list for your students to use to see whether they are Christians? We just created a form that stud...