Jeopardy in the Church?

“I’ll take ‘Threes’ for 1000, Alex,” says the contestant. Alex reads the answer: “Yellow, Blue, and Red.” Contestants frantically buzz in. The one with the quickest thumb responds: “What are the three primary colors?” And so the game goes. Jeopardy has been the most popular game show since its syndication in 1984 (24 years!). Its familiar format has reached beyond the TV audience. You find this on their website:

Jeopardy!’s unique answer-and-question format has become a popular motivational tool adapted by a variety of national educators. In 2002, Educational Insights premiered “Classroom Jeopardy!,” an affordable electronic version of the famous quiz show, which can be tailored by educators to suit their specific curriculum, while bringing the familiar sights and sounds of Jeopardy! (buzzers and all!) directly into the classroom.

Perhaps Jeopardy can claim that its “answer-and-question” format is unique amongst game shows but it isn’t unique in the real world. Almost everything we do can have a question behind it. Mercy and Aaron make it painfully obvious to us frequently that they are learning things from us that we did not realize we were teaching so thoroughly. “Coffee!” they yell excitedly every morning when Erika walks through the kitchen door to the table for breakfast. We taught them that the black liquid was coffee, that it was hot, and that it was only for mommy. But we did not teach them to exuberantly celebrate the precious morning ritual. That they learned by watching. If this scene were on Jeopardy maybe it would go something like this:

“Morning rituals for 1000, Alex,” Mercy might say.

“Coffee!” offers Alex Trebek. And Aaron, being the more dexterous, presses his button the fastest and exclaims “What is the drink that makes mommy mommy in the morning?”

Our lives are full of these sorts of things. As adults we have taken them for granted and moved on to more nuanced (even esoteric) understandings of our actions. But our children remind us that there may be more that we are teaching without even knowing it.

In my last post I asked the question about what our underlying grammar was in the faith community. That post was driving at one aspect of identity making and understanding. I wonder what in our churches we are teaching without reflecting on the fact that teaching is actually happening?

In my younger life our church on Jeopardy might have sounded like this:

Answer: “Middle-class white people who can afford to dress up on Sunday.”
Question: “Who is welcome in our church?”


Answer: “Organ and a choir.”
Question: “What is good worship?”


Answer: “Grey-haired white male”
Question: “Who is allowed to preach?”

These questions, of course, do not reflect our current faith community but the same reflective exercise would yield its own good and bad results. All of life is a learning community. What subtle and not so subtle things are being taught in our congregations? How are these sometimes hidden or unrecognized questions defining reality?

If you were to reflect on your present (or past) faith community, what is being taught beyond the sermon/teaching? Are you surprised by anything, good or bad? Are you willing to post and share here?

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