Tuesday, March 6, 2018

Flannel Graph Memories

Proverbs 9:9 “Instruct the wise and they will be wiser still; teach the righteous and they will add to their learning.” (NIV)

When I was 15 years old I became a volunteer for a ministry called Child Evangelism Fellowship. As a volunteer I helped teach a weekly Good News Club. The club met after school and helped children, mostly from non-religious homes, understand the stories of the Bible, and especially the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Part of my training as a volunteer was learning how to use flannel graph to illustrate the stories. I collected a number of Bible scenes painted on to large pieces of flannel and had file folders full of various biblical characters that I could put on the scenes as a visual to tell the Bible stories. I had not seen flannel graph before and thought it was the coolest thing ever. I used those visual aids over and over again to help children learn biblical truth. Even after I was no longer working with Child Evangelism Fellowship, I kept all the different characters and scenes and used them to teach in a variety of settings, including to teens and adults, for many years. They were very helpful in illustrating the stories I was teaching.

That was 35 years ago. Now, I don’t know anyone who still uses flannel graph. Now we use video, PowerPoint, and interactive games on I-pads and cell phones as visual aids in our teaching. Every couple of years some new technology comes along and changes the way we teach. As a lifelong learner, I try to stay up to date. But sometimes I struggle to figure out how to communicate the message in whatever way is currently fashionable.

To be honest, there are times I miss my old flannel graph scenes and characters. They were easy to use and I was comfortable with them. Many children came to faith in Christ through them and so there was a real emotional and spiritual attachment in my mind to those teaching tools. But there came a day when I realized they were no longer as effective as they once were. Staying up to date with teaching skills is always be a challenge. At times I’m tempted to revert back to those old flannel graph visuals and do things like I did 35 years ago. In many ways it would be easier for me. But I always resist that temptation because I realize it would not actually communicate the message of the Gospel as effectively as I would like it to.

The question I ask myself often is “Do I want things to be easy for me or do I want people to actually understand the message?” If the goal is for me to teach the message of Christ, then I have to constantly upgrade my communication skills and abilities. I have to learn new teaching techniques that actually get the point across. I cannot just rely on my past training or experience. While the past does have value, I cannot live in the past. I must be a lifelong learning in order to continue the calling God put on my life as a 15-year-old to teach others Jesus. 

What about you? Are you a lifelong learner? When was the last time you upgraded your efforts to share the word of God? Ongoing training is essential and the message of the Gospel is worth the time it takes to learn how to share it well.

Lord, help us be lifelong learners so we can be as effective as possible in sharing Your Word with others. Amen.


Dr. Terry W. Dorsett serves at the Executive Director of the Baptist Convention of New England. He has been a pastor, church planter, denominational leader and author in New England for more than 20 years. He is a happy husband, a proud father and adoring grandfather. He is a cancer survivor and believes that God works powerfully through times of suffering. He writes extensively and you can find all of his books at:

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