There’s an App for That

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By Cali Chan
Cali attends Asbury College in Kentucky. She's an avid ping pong player, and she recently finished production on a new teaching series for kids. Follow Cali Chan on Twitter @kidmindealguru.

Is your kid a fruit ninja or a vegetable samurai? Perhaps they’re skilled with a slingshot that shoots birds. Or maybe they’ve become expert landscapers, waging a war against zombies. If you have any kind of smartphone or tablet device, you know what I’m talking about.  

Downloadable apps like Angry Birds, Fruit Ninja, and Plants vs. Zombies have been entertaining kids and adults alike. I now consider myself an amateur photographer through an app called Instagram. I’m also not ashamed to admit that I hardly ever carry a print Bible to church. I just use the Bible app!

The Net Generation

With the advent of portable media, it’s important for churches to learn to engage this new lifestyle and adapt it into their ministry, especially for children! One can find hundreds of apps that are specifically geared towards children as young as preschoolers. Books and educational tools are all completely interactive on a smartphone or tablet. Kids will probably learn how to swipe a page instead of picking it up and turning it! Schools are adopting technology into the classroom and computers are a necessity for students these days. With just a tap, Google search makes information accessible as long as you can read or write (or in this case, type).

A recent study done by AVG has shown that more kids know how to play on a smartphone than tie their own shoes. Another study from PlayScience reveals that 6 percent of children ages 2-5 have their own smartphones. There’s a reason Generation Y is also known as The Net Generation. These kids will never know a world where television, movies, music, and games were not a push button away. They will never conceive of a world where the Internet, with all its wonders, was not accessible by a device small enough to fit in their pocket. 

Most people consider the media to be a bad influence on children. This is true for the most part. However, instead of just banning media from entering the front door, the church should find a way to utilize it and guide children to the truth. Films, social networking, music, and television are the newest frontiers to which Christians must take the Gospel. Technology is the new tool.

So how does one turn what’s normally a distraction into a discussion?  

How to be Relevant

Relevance is an important factor in teaching. It always has been. Jesus understood this when he used parables that related to His audience, whether they were farmers, Pharisees, or fishermen. Teachers should pick topics that are relevant to kids today. So what do kids talk about today? They talk about media! The latest movie, video game, tweet or status update from a friend are all topics that come up regularly in kids’ conversations.

A creative video channel on YouTube created by TheFineBros makes a series of videos called “Kids React” and “Teens React.” They show kids viral videos on YouTube, clips from movies and TV, or something related to a celebrity. Then, they ask them questions about their thoughts on what they just watched. Naturally, the responses are often hilarious and cute. Some of these videos have gotten millions of views. This is because the topics that kids discuss are always relevant. They’re asked questions about One Direction, Minecraft, and The Hunger Games. If you don’t know what any of those things are, you might want to do a little research … just in case you want to stay relevant with your youth … not to mention that your kids will think you’re really cool.

But, it’s not just about being cool. TheFineBros really know how to do something that every children’s pastor, youth minister or small group leader tries to attain—to get kids talking! If you want to open up discussion on something, start with something they know! The key is to tie it in with a lesson from Scripture.

Of course, while staying relevant, it’s also important to use caution. Sometimes the kids in the Kids React videos had never seen what was being shown before. This leads to the question, “Is it okay to introduce kids to secular media in church?” My answer for that is, “What better place to do it than in the church?” Don’t use media for media’s sake. Use it to glorify God.

Applying Applications

With the strong influence the media has on children, it’s more important now than ever to make sure children see it and analyze it through lessons from God and the Bible. Look for themes from the media, and use them to teach simple truths.

Childrens-Ministry-Deals.com developed a curriculum that takes its cue from the latest apps on the market. Then, they use those apps as a metaphor for the main lesson—a Bible story. The series is called “There’s An App For That.” They look like this.

Angry Words: This lesson compares the famous Angry Birds to the words we say in anger. How do we prevent our words from being destructive and harmful? A fun skit called Angry Nerds demonstrates just how harmful our words can be.

Fruit of the Spirit Ninja: This provides a fresh take on the fruit of the spirit. It teaches that in order to become a fruit ninja, the fruit of the spirit has to be shared with others, just like a slice of watermelon.

Temple Run from Temptation: Running away from temptation requires more than quick reflexes. The app gives new life to the story of Abraham and his nephew Lot who had to flee from Sodom and Gomorrah.

Know Your Bible App: This lesson encourages kids to really know the Bible and what it means. It tells the story of how priests in Jesus’ time didn’t carry around Scripture on their phone; they carried copies of verses in small boxes on their foreheads!

The There’s an App for That series can draw kids in from the digital world with skits, object lessons, activities, and games that are included with each lesson. These lessons along with eight others are available for instant download on the CMD website. 

Trends in media come and go, but technology continues to advance. The more sophisticated it becomes, the more technology becomes a part of every person’s life—children or adults. Even though we all don’t have our own personal robots and don’t need a license for a flying car, the way we interact with the world and each other is changing.

Kids love the Angry Words lesson as much as Angry Birds. The familiarity draws them in. The fun of the live action Angry Birds game and the Angry Nerds sketch engages them. But the ultimate goal is to produce kids who are conscientious of using their words cautiously. That’s a perfect way to integrate a cultural phenomenon with what is still the best selling book of all time—the Bible.

Our job, as ambassadors of the Gospel, is to continue changing with the new media. As new fads and new ideas arise, we should examine each one, looking for the teachable moments they may present. The message underneath never changes, but every generation will connect to the age-old message in its own way. If today's technology is any indication, the new media of tomorrow will be even richer with opportunities to share the old, old story of the Gospel.

TechnologyRyan Frank