How the Church is like Grover

This is a guest post by Jared Kennedy, Pastor of Children's Ministry at Sojourn Community Church in Louisville, KY.  He blogs at

This is part 3 of an interview with Dr. Timothy Paul Jones, Associate Professor of Discipleship and Family Ministry at The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville.  I recently had the honor of reading a draft of his new book, The Family Ministry Field Guide, that will be published this Spring.  Since I just finished reading the manuscript, I want to take some time while writing for Life2Gether to ask Dr. Jones a few questions about his work.  The book offers a ton of practical advice for pastors and parents.  Dr. Jones gracious enough to entertain my questions.  This is the third post with his answers.  You can check out the first and second posts to see the entire interview.

The Lord has truly gifted you as a teacher, and the Field Guide is peppered with great illustrations of the biblical materials that you present.  One of the most memorable for me is the “Grover Principle.”  Not only is it memorable, but it is also important, because the principle helps us guard against two very real dangers.  Would you explain the principle, its implications, and the dangers that it helps us to guard against?

As a pre-schooler, I was an avid fan of Sesame Street; one of my earliest memories of Sesame Street is of Grover's "near" and "far" routine. Grover would begin near the camera, saying, "This is neeeaaar," then he ran to the other end of the set and yelled, "This is faaar!" He never settled for near, and he never stayed far. Grover always went both near and far.

I've used that in The Family Ministry Field Guide as a visual metaphor for what Peter proclaimed on Pentecost about God's promise to his people: "This promise is for you and your children and for those who are far off" (Acts 2:39). In that text, the promise begins near, in our very households ("you and your children"), but then immediately shifts to those who are "far off." The temptation in ministry is to focus either on those that are near or on those that are far. The Grover Principle is a recognition that, alone, neither near nor far is sufficient. If I focus only on families that are near--on developing discipleship habits in church members' homes--the result is neglect of spiritual orphans. But if, on the other hand, I aim ministry efforts primarily at those who are far--designing ministries to bypass parents because some children have unbelieving parents who won't disciple them--I inadvertently release Christian parents from their God-ordained role in discipling their children. Gospel-centered family ministry is ministry that both begins near and goes far.  You can read more about the Grover principle here.

There are a few Star Wars references in the book for those who have eyes to see them as well.  Is it true that you have sometimes used a Darth Vader paper sack puppet when teaching the elementary children’s ministry class at Sojourn East?

Busted. And by the children's minister, no less. I admit it: I have been known to utilize a Darth Vader puppet to talk about total depravity as well as resisting temptation--though I was not actually the person who made the puppet.  And yes, the book includes quite a few Star Wars references; I am also quite certain that I have the only office on the Southern Seminary campus that is decorated wholly in Star Wars toys and posters.