Friday, December 12, 2003

Just ran across this one on the web. Great analogy. Worth the read.

Prayer of JaPEZ
by Steve Case

I'm not now, nor have I ever been an urban youth minister. I've spent my career in youth ministry working with basically happy, upper middle class, white kids. I've worked in suburban churches with mostly good budgets in mostly good neighborhoods. I don't think I have the right to offer comment (humorous or otherwise) on the state of urban ministry today.

So let's take this time to discuss one of the most underrated youth ministry tools of our time.

PEZ dispensers.

PEZ dispensers can bring us closer to God. Think about it for a moment. The simple design of a PEZ dispenser hasn't been improved upon since its invention nearly 50 years ago. A simple plastic toy with a plastic head that, when tilted back, gives you one small piece of sugar candy. Let's start with the obvious reference of Luke 11:9:

"So I say to you: Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you."

Now let's look deeper. In a world where robot dogs are being given away in fast food kid meals and teens are flipping out over the latest mega-bit graphic video game, the PEZ dispenser shows that simplicity in life is the greatest reward. In Matthew 18:3, Jesus said, "Unless you change and become like little children you will never enter the kingdom of heaven."

PEZ dispensers have also achieved their own private level of coolness. To own one is to stand out and say, "Hey, I'm not one of the crowd." "Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind." (Romans 12:2) Then you'll be able to test and approve what God's will is—his good, pleasing, and perfect will.

What happens when you pull a PEZ dispenser out of your book bag or your pocket during a youth meeting or on a long drive? A dozen hands come out asking for just one tablet. PEZ dispensers open up lines of communication between strangers on a bus and break down barriers in a board meeting. The simple act of sharing a PEZ candy can lead to sharing stories of childhood and eventually of faith.

"All the believers were one in heart and mind. No one claimed that any of his possessions were his own, but they shared everything they had." (Acts 4:32)

PEZ dispensers come in thousands of different styles. Each character on a PEZ allows us to express our own individuality to the world. Show the world you're a Charlie Brown, a Batman, or a Kermit the Frog. We're all different flavors and characters, but we're all still part of the body of Christ.

"The body is a unit, though it is made up of many parts; and though all its parts are many, they form one body. So it is with Christ. For we were all baptized by one Spirit into one body—whether Jews or Greeks, slave or free—and we were all given the one Spirit to drink." (1 Cor. 12:12-13)

I want to see Biblical PEZ dispensers. Great heroes of the Bible depicted in PEZ plastic. The Moses PEZ dispenser would have only two tablets. The John the Baptist PEZ would have a removable head. The Jesus PEZ dispenser would somehow never run out. Imagine a Nativity display comprised entirely of PEZ characters. The Adam and Eve dispensers would…well, never mind.

For those of you thinking, "He's getting a freebie," the answer is no. I'm not getting anything from the PEZ Company. (Although if they're reading this article and felt so obliged they could express their gratitude by sending it in care of this journal.)

We have a simply designed tool, uncomplicated and accessible. It allows us to express our individuality while at the same time opening the doors that remind us we're all connected.

Could there be a more perfect tool for youth ministry, urban or otherwise?

I don't think so.

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