Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Meeting Your Kids at the World-Wide Well

by Johnny Rogers and Douglas McKelvey

In a world of connectivity, not to have access to certain creature comforts is rarely given a second thought. When was the last time you went hiking down the road with a bucket looking for the nearest well to draw water? Yet, there are still people in the world that survive on one water source - one spring, one well, one stream. People are drawn to a water source because everyone needs water for drinking, cooking, washing clothes. Conversations take place, relationships are developed, and news and information are gathered, concentrated, and disseminated at one place: the water source.

If you are over 30 years old, you have seen connectivity through technology grow from a futuristic idea to something merely commonplace. My 12-year-old expects that water will come out of the faucet. With the same degree of anticipation, she expects to be able to connect with ideas and find information about things that are important to her through technology. When the WiFi at home goes down, my kids can't comprehend it. It is as if they turned the faucet and no water came out of the tap.

Turning the Digital Faucet
Digital technologies provide kids with multiple “wells” from which they can draw content that is important to them. It is easy to forget that today's kids have no knowledge of a pre-internet lifestyle. Kids expect to seek out multiple sources for anything they’re interested in. They are accustomed to exploring and gathering information so they can come at it from a number of angles.

Are you a fan of Hannah Montana? If you are, you can watch it on TV on Saturday morning, or you can watch multiple episodes online at anytime you want. You can buy an entire season on DVD. You can watch episodes on your iPod in the car. You can download the songs from iTunes. You can go to her concerts with thousands of other screaming kids. The point is, this generation has an expectation to draw their information from multiple sources. They increasingly expect to interact with their interests in a way that is multifaceted and uniquely personal.

Taking a Digital Drink
Integrating Biblical truth into everyday reality strengthens a Biblical worldview and bridges the perception gap between the Bible being merely a book of stories and the Bible being a transformational "light unto my path." Giving kids mid-week access to what they are taught on Sundays helps reinforce the lessons they are learning and provides a practical connection between Biblical truth and their lives "right now." By providing additional access to lessons online, children have the opportunity to personalize lessons in the context of their everyday lives. Helping kids process through a lesson requires asking the right questions.

What's The Point?
Can you simply communicate last week's lesson in a simple statement, phrase or single word? If you can, you are well on your way to helping a child connect a Biblical truth to a real-life situation. One way to accomplish this is with an online quiz. Google Documents offer a free feature that allows you to create a safe and secure online quiz your kids can access either through email or through your existing children's ministry website. Even though many kids do not have email accounts, most families do. This is also a great opportunity to connect parents with what their kids are learning. One suggestion is to create a sign up sheet at your checkout station that reads:

Dear Parents,
We've created a fun kid-quiz for you and your child to help apply what they have been learning. If you would like to participate, please leave your family email address below and we will email you the link this week.

Your Children's Ministry Team

The goal of each quiz is to lead a child through a progression of thought from concept to completion. Remember to write questions that will help kids think through concepts, not just quiz them on what they remember. Start by clarifying the concept from the child's perspective and then gradually move them to a concrete conclusion that requires action.

You might start your first question by focusing on a key word or theme in the week’s memory verse. For instance, the focus of your quiz may have to do with "confessing." Therefore, your first question should help clarify that key word. For example you might ask: “What do you think the word confess means?” Then offer multiple-choice answers to help guide the child to the correct definition.


Confess means to:
a) Be sneaky
b) Be quiet
c) Tell on others
d) Say something out loud

Next, determine what the key word or theme would look like in action. If someone were to "confess," or "be kind," or "love others," what would it look like?


If someone were to confess something, they would:
a) Think to yourself
b) Say something really loud
c) Tell the truth about what they did
d) Tell a good joke.

Why Should I Care?
It is easy to assume a child understands why it is important to apply the truth of God's Word. But the reality is that often, embedded beneath the surface of a verse or lesson is a practical truth that rests unearthed. This is a great opportunity to help a child discover the depth of God's Word -- that there is more beneath the surface when we take time to look. We can begin by questioning the importance of the concept. Why is this idea important? What would happen if no one was kind, loved others, shared? Great communicators will use a question like this to create a tension in the minds of the audience. Creating a tension through an unanswered question causes the learner to sit up and take notice while creating an appetite for a solution.

How Does That Apply to Me?
What does the point of the lesson look like in the life of an eight-year-old? It probably looks very different than it does in the life of a twelve-year-old. When drawing an application for your kids, start with the world they live in everyday. What would living this lesson look like at home, with a brother or sister, at school or in the car ride home from church? The greater the clarity you have in your mind, the greater the chance your questions will cause a real-life situation to pop into a child's head while they are working through the quiz.

What Does It Look Like In Action?
I can't tell you how many times I've watched kids walk out the doors of a classroom and wondered, "Are they really getting it? Are they making a connection between what was just taught and what life will throw at them this week?"

Often we teach lessons about being kind, loving others, or trusting God and then we try to help kids see how they can apply the Bible to their lives. We tell the story of Moses leading the Israelites across the parted sea and we say, "Moses trusted God in a difficult circumstance. We can trust God in a difficult circumstance." But there still lingers the unanswered question in the minds of our kids, "How will I know when I get it right?" In order for transformation to take place, we must move kids beyond application to personalization. When we say, "be kind to others" or "trust God in a difficult circumstance," use examples from their world. "When you are picked on at school, and you respond like this (insert your real-world example here), that's what it means to be kind." The picture must be so clear that a kid says, "Oh, I get it!" It's so clear, that when they walk out the door, they know what to do or what not to do -- the choice becomes real.

We all want kids to get the point of our lessons. We want them to apply what they have learned. But sometimes there is a disconnect between what is learned and what living life like Jesus looks like in the everyday moments of a child's life. Giving kids access to learning throughout the week can help them apply Biblical concepts in the changing context of their lives.

Being able to process the Bible in the context of everyday moments allows kids to personalize what they are learning by connecting it to their own experiences.

Technology is simply a faucet that draws information from the water source. It takes a message and connects it with kids on their home turf. By creating multiple points of access, we can help kids make better connections with the truth of God’s Word, with its application to their own lives, and with opportunities to put it into practice.

Johnny Rogers has served in full-time children's ministry for over 15 years. He currently lives in Tennessee where he is co-founder and Creative Director of KIDMO, a premiere media-driven resource for Children's Ministry.

Douglas McKelvey is an author and song writer. He lives in Franklin, TN with his wife and three media-savvy daughters.

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