Wednesday, March 29, 2023

Telling a God-Story, Warts and All

 Kentucky's Christian history is neither a Black story nor a White story. It is not an Asian nor a Hispanic story. It is a God story filled with surprises and awkward mishaps perpetrated by people who default to sin. When we make Christians into people who can do no wrong we are as guilty of obstructing the way to faith for someone who has yet to encounter God as if we put stumbling blocks in front of a blind person. If we as ministers of Jesus Christ who are responsible for introducing kids and youth to the Christian message do not remain humble and mindful of our own inconsistencies and failures, we misrepresent the church and make it less likely for people to search and perhaps find faith for themselves. 

At the Kentucky Faith & Public History Education Project we tell a complicated story. God is well able to defend His own reputation. We have chosen to be as realistic and honest about what has happened in and through Christians in Kentucky as the Bible is about the moral failures of such people as King David... a murderer, adulterer, father of an abuser but whom God declared was a man after His own heart. 

Failure is not our portion but when it happens it needs to be identified, repudiated, and reconciled with truth and justice. So, when you bring your kids and youth groups to visit the Walking Trail & Arboretum in Paris, understand that they will be introduced to many different famous Kentuckians who gave public credit for their achievements to their Christian faith. These men and women come from all walks of life, from all ethnicities and from all points in Kentucky's history since the 1780's. Your group will also be introduced to people who took advantage of Christians and their beliefs to perpetrate abuses such as Hernando DeSoto, perhaps the earliest representative of the Christian faith to reach the indigenous peoples in Kentucky but who pillaged, raped and kidnapped them for his own benefit.

Of course, when you schedule your group's field trip to the Walking Trail in advance, we customize the activities you will experience so that they are memorable and fully appropriate to the age-group you represent. Call 859-987-5407 to schedule your visit. We are always open and always free during daylight hours. Ocassionally, when we need to purchase supplies for a particular program we charge a nominal fee for participating. For example, the Arbor Poetree Day program for first, second and third graders will cost $2/person but each child will receive a worksheet, supplies to make a bark rubbing, materials to make a necklace out of a piece of wood from a tree, and a cookie. If you are interested in that program, make a reservation to come between 10AM and 2PM on Friday, April 28, 2023.

Wednesday, February 1, 2023

Summer Fun for Church Groups - Kids, Youth Groups and Families- in Paris, Kentucky

Are you planning this summer's activities for your church's children, youth, and families? We are open and ready to serve you. You have several options. 

Self-guided tours of the Kentucky Faith & Public History Walking Trail in the lovely arboretum with an eye-spy game to find out about famous Kentucky Christians is always free and open during daylight options. Plan to eat in the picnic area that seats 80. 

2-hour customized field trips include a menu of history-themed games. Schedule this in advance by calling 859-987-5407. There is no charge for this. However, donations in support of the project are greatly appreciated.

FAME for a Day - a full day (six hours) of fun. Learn about five FAMOUS Kentucky Christians who each had very challenging childhoods that they overcame as they pressed into their Christian faith. Play games inspired by their lives. Make and take home crafts. See puppet shows. Enjoy the walking trail in the arboretum and picnic among the trees. This adventure is good if you have a minimum of 20 participants and costs $10/person. Call 859-987-5407 to schedule when your group can come.

Each option introduces you to the stories of famous Kentuckians from the past who gave public credit to their Christian faith for their successes. Their lives are powerful to envision today's children to do great things for God's glory. These are people like Harland Sanders, Elisha Green, Mary Britton and Lottie Moon. They are athletes, poets, presidents, journalists, pilots, divers, homemakers, entrepreneurs, suffragettes, teachers and missionaries. Stories of thirty of these famous Kentuckians are told in the eye-spy game that is spread around the half-mile walking trail at the Kentucky Faith & Public History Education Project. They are also found in the Famous Kentucky Christians Club series of easy-reader chapter books. Our website has links that can take you to more information about many of these famous people here. 

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.

Telling a God-Story, Warts and All

 Kentucky's Christian history is neither a Black story nor a White story. It is not an Asian nor a Hispanic story. It is a God story fil...