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As we’ve discussed before, many religions are struggling to keep their flocks. However, all is not gloom and doom.

For instance, there’s a cute article this weekend in the New York Times about a non-religiously-raised kid who suddenly insists his (ex-monk) dad start taking him to church on Sundays:

He did not want his mother to come. Dianne Sweeney, 50, a customer service manager for PepsiCo, had grown up without religion, and a few times when Ryan had mentioned the pope, she had rolled her eyes.

“He thought I didn’t have the right attitude,” Ms. Sweeney said.

What follows is a touching story of redemption. Little Ryan joins the confirmation class; his dad stares at the beautiful stained-glass windows; even the mom eventually tags along and volunteers to bring a carrot salad to the church picnic. (Shrewdly, the article manages not to bring up theology, which might have made it controversial and/or interesting.)

At this point you’re probably wondering if there are any lessons your church can learn from this story.

Among the many reasons Ryan wanted to go: he’s a big reader, enjoys fantasy literature and has seen theories suggesting the world may end in 2013 due to the configuration of magnetic forces. In that case, he said, it would be nice to be on good terms with God.

None of these are traditional elements of church outreach, but they could quite easily be incorporated. Therefore, churches that are hurting for parishioners might consider one or more of the following:

The obvious caveat is that, if parents were to start teaching their kids that fantasy books are fiction and that the Mayan prophecy is nonsense and that “the reason we don’t go to church is because your religion is false,” these plans might not work. But what are the chances of any of those?

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If you’re like me, you probably grew up reading the Berenstain Bears books. You probably learned valuable lessons from The Berenstain Bears Learn About Strangers, The Berenstain Bears and Too Much Junk Food, The Berenstain Bears and the Bully, and The Berenstain Bears and Too Much Vacation. Your early sexual fantasies were probably shaped by The Berenstain Bears and the Female Fullback, The Berenstain Bears in the Freaky Funhouse, The Berenstain Bears And the New Girl in Town, and The Berenstain Bears and the Giddy Grandma.

And yet you probably found yourself wishing that the Berenstain Bears could also teach you some faith-based lessons. Well, wait no more:

At least one book, “The Berenstain Bears Love Their Neighbors,” is a retelling of a biblical story, that of the Good Samaritan. Others use biblical themes or verses.

The full series is not complete yet, which means that we have lots to look forward to. As a long-time Berenstain Bears fan, I most eagerly anticipate the following:

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