Thursday, April 23, 2009

Past: Sunday School

I think I've been to thousands of church services over the last 48 years. My mom and dad used to drag all four of us kids to the Akron Baptist Temple each week whether we wanted to go or not. Sunday school is not quite a church service but I think it still counts; I racked up hundreds of hours there - what do you think?

The Akron Baptist Temple (ABT) was actually in the Guiness Book of World Records when I was growing up, as the church with the world's largest Sunday school - wow did I think we were cool. I remember there were nearly 40 full-size church buses parked out back that picked up thousands of kids all over the city on Sunday morning - affectionately known to us as "bus kids." The Sunday school was housed in a bunch of connecting buildings (added on as the church grew) and you were assigned appropriately to a floor in one of the buildings with kids your own age. On your floor was the main "worship" area and then several dozen classrooms surrounding the worship space. We'd meet in the middle at the beginning, sitting on long, hard, high-backed slatted benches to sing the classics...The B-I-B-L-E, If You're Saved and You Know It, Jesus Loves Me, I am a C, I am a C-H, I am a C-H-R-I-S-T-I-A-N (Amen!) and on and on; usually accompanied by a 300 year-old lady on an upright piano in a print dress that had been going there since the place was still woods, and a Rodney Dangerfield-looking song leader that never made it as a soloist in "big church," always trying to be funny. After 15 minutes of songs and announcements, it was off to the lesson time.

Every fall during Sunday School promotion time, (when you got promoted to a new age group and shuffled to another floor in the complex) it was always a time of anticipation to see what teacher you would get for the next year, and to see what kids were going to be in your class - including bus kids. Usually, the teachers were nice and used flannel graphs to tell Bible stories, and after a month or two they would remember your name. I would do my best to go every week (like I had a choice) because you got a cool prize if you made it 13 weeks in a row. Can you imagine that now? Thirteen weeks is like an eternity - would that be defeating to an 8 year old trying to win something? What if you were a bus kid? I'm sure that parent advocates have passed some sort of Sunday school law against that 13-week-perfect-attendance thing by now. Thirteen weeks was a huge investment when all it got you was a white plastic bank shaped like a church that glowed in the dark (eternal benefits not quite understood.) Be that at as it may...I had quite a collection of glow in the dark banks. Eventually when I got old enough, I would shoot for a voucher for $2 off the price of a week at church camp (the prize got better as you got older) - that's about 15 cents per Sunday...tough economy back then. Hey, some years those vouchers almost covered the whole cost of camp for me - that's a lot of 15 cent Sundays.

The thing is...I had no reference as a kid for what was really happening at Sunday school. I was learning the truths of God's Word from that Sunday School teacher. Rodney Dangerfield and the long ago-passed-away piano lady were helping me discover God's magnificence and learn about God's creation through song. And all of that seeped deep into my spirit, so that when the time was just right, Jesus Christ became Lord of my life.

Keep watching.

Hey, you can leave comments you know... I'd love to hear about your Sunday school adventures.

Saturday, April 18, 2009

Present: The New Saturday Routine

Life has changed a little at the Authenreith household. I used to get up whenever I wanted on Saturday morning (still usually before 8am), make a pot of coffee and throw myself on the couch until I "felt" like doing anything. I have a full schedule at Mainstreet - working Sunday through Friday with a few evenings thrown in, so Saturday was my only official day off; notice I say was...

I'm always looking for opportunities to supplement my income as many of us do, and through the years I've been asked by different people here and there if I give guitar lessons. My personality type leans towards the cautious - "don't try anything you think you will fail at" so I've always said no. One day several months ago, I was in Marty's office (my supervisor) and he asked me out of the blue if I ever considered giving guitar lessons - he thought there was a bit of interest by people in the congregation, including his son Marty Jack. After a some prayer and much discussion with Donna, I began the research to see if I could pull this off.

I started with an online forum I belong to called The Gear Page, (TGP) which is a forum of, for and about anything having to do with guitars. I've been an active participant on TGP for almost two years - learning about different guitars, playing techniques, amps, pedals... you name it. It's a blast for someone like me who lives and breathes guitars, and it is has proven to be very beneficial to me as a player and as a worship leader. I started a thread on TGP - "How Do I Become a Guitar Teacher - help please," or something like that, and with thousand and thousands of guitarists active on the forum I received plenty of responses from those who teach - almost all of them positive, with most saying that teaching guitar is a very rewarding activity. I also got advice on what to teach each week - (a piece of theory, an exercise and a piece of music) and practical things like how to handle students who don't practice, etc. One of the great things I was turned on to was a marvelous beginning guitar book, "From Liverpool to Abbey Road - Beginning Guitar with the Music of the Beatles." Wow, how can you beat that. So - I had my friend Lisa Feather design some cool business cards, Donna and I spruced up the basement, and I ordered my teaching materials - along with a book called "How to Make Money Teaching Guitar," (another invaluable asset to my venture) and off I went.

Within a week or two, I filled up my student openings and the new Saturday routine began. I have eight guitar students coming to my house each week for lessons, and we're all working through the great book "From Liverpool to Abbey Road - Beginning Guitar Lessons with the Music of the Beatles." So far, it has been a blast - and as my friends on TGP said - it's a very rewarding activity. Music and the love of playing my guitar was somehow engrained in my DNA from birth or something, and being able to share that God-given passion and love for music with beginning students is a great thing. Now if I can just get used to the new Saturday routine it will all be good!

Oh, one other thing... the first song you come to in the Beatles book after a few weeks of lessons is "Little Help from My Friends," which I've now heard and played dozens of times. The problem with that song? There's lines in there that talk about activities you can do with help from your friends..."Oh, I'll get by with a little help from my friends... gonna try with a little help from my friends... I get high with a little help from my friends..." Being a worship pastor and all? I've had to scratch that one word out of all of my students books - just to be on the safe's not 1967 anymore.