As a result of our new control over TV we can watch it less and we watch it constructively.

Our family decided it was time to stop talking about television’s potential for harm and do something about it. We considered: (1) Selling or destroying our set; but children of families who try that watch at someone else’s house, and control is thus one step farther from the parent. (2) Being selective about what we watch; but on prime-time evening hours often this only gives you a choice between various suggestive, violent, and sexually explicit shows. (3) Doing family things together; but often it’s too wintery to go on a family outing or we aren’t always in the mood to play a family game or read books together, especially when our three-year-old is active.

We looked for a workable alternative that would let our preteens feel privileged, not punished. For us the answer is a video cassette recorder (VCR). We play what we judge the very best programs. Add an occasional rented videotape, and a birthday party or slumber party becomes special. It costs less ($4.00) to rent a top movie like Superman than it does to buy the refreshments when we go to a theater.

With our children’s cooperation, we choose what moral impressions we will allow the tube to put out. If our three-year-old sleeps through “Sesame Street” or “Mr. Rogers,” we put on a tape of either and he is happy. Our family enjoys religious drama, but we aren’t awake in the wee morning hours when Emmy-Award-winning This Is the Life is broadcast in our area. The timer on our VCR turns the unit on, records the show, and we replay it at our convenience.

Saturday morning cartoons, often called TV’s most violent hours, once kept our children entranced. Now they usually give way to a replay of Sound of Music, “Little House on the Prairie,” “Star Trek,” or “Those Amazing Animals.”

Conflicts between homework and TV have ceased. If something worthwhile is on, the children gladly do their home work, because we tape the show for replay Friday night or Saturday morning.

Taping costs are not unreasonable. We record six hours of material on a $15 videotape. We paid $850 for a fully portable A.C./battery-operated, 11-pound VCR. Used standard table-top models go for $350 and up. As a result of our new control over TV, we watch it less and we watch it constructively.

Our church has also discovered a new ministry with television. We tape our services for replay in nursing homes and hospitals; we do the video recording with a camera stationed in the balcony. We experimented with various cameras until we found one that gives us good color reproduction, but does not require floodlights, and is slightly larger than a home movie camera.

Most of the recording is done by teen-agers and young adults, who enjoy having this dimension of spiritual ministry. Other volunteers take the video recorder to nursing homes, introduce the service, and visit briefly. People appreciate not only watching the service, but also the personal conversations afterwards. In hospitals, videotapes are broadcast on closed-circuit TV systems.

Of course, this TV ministry does not replace pastoral visits. We have found the TV services give an unusual midweek opportunity for worship. In addition to the worship services, we are planning to tape adult Bible study and membership classes.

DENNIS TEGTMEIERMr. Tegtmeier is pastor of First Lutheran Church, Papillion, Nebraska.

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