Children’s Ministry 2.0 Part 2
Read Part 1: “Who Likes Sunday School”
Courage is not simply one of the virtues, but the form of every virtue at the testing point.
It takes an act of courage to change or try something new.
Believing we were called to help the church figure out an effective way to harness the power of technology and leverage the influence of parents and churches to reach the next generation, we intentionally strategized a new paradigm for children’s ministry. We aggregated a wide spectrum of research on how children learn and realized that it was time to gamify children’s ministry.
Children intuitively engage with digital content and gameificaiton strategies. Looking at the ever-increasing amounts of time children spend on technology, we realized that it was time take a step in that direction. There were myriad factors to consider, one of which was the fact that the online gaming industry is extremely successful, hence highly saturated. We’re not here to compete, we’re here to compound connection points and carry out the pedagogical function of teaching spiritual content and mastery to the next generation.
For example, we recently launched an online digital ministry tool called Incredible Islands. Unlike most video games, Incredible Islands allows players to come together in a local physical space on a weekly basis and interact with each other and with adults. This virtual world breaks through from devices to real life—where the community is still playing whether it is together or apart—simply mediated through technology. The goal—to create as many connection points as possible and bridge the gaps between ministry and technology as much as possible.
We worked with a team to develop Incredible Islands to ensure that it incorporates a Scripture-rich online game with a Learning Management System (LMS). This not only lets children’s pastors tailor activities to their existing curriculum, but it also allows users to play the game anywhere, anytime in a safe online environment.
During development, we incorporated gamificaiton in such a way that not only invites children to engage with the curriculum and God’s Word at the touch of a button or screen, but that it also gives them a chance to live out in real life what they are learning online. The built-in Missions and real-life Quests not only support parental and church leaders’ efforts to nurture and grow a cognitive faith, but to give them opportunities for experiential learning as they practice living out their faith.
When we strategized the goals for a new paradigm, we utilized our research to help identify the four main components needed for successful Children’s Ministry:
1. Participatory—Children, more than ever before in the history of mankind, want to participate. We probably have the meritocracy of the Internet to thank for that. Knowing this, we need to shift away from the mindset of adults teaching TO children and moving to inviting them to learn along WITH us.
2. Co-creative—The world offers our children a readily accessible platform and ever increasing opportunities to unleash their creativity. Instead of “if YOU build it, THEY will come”, we are now experiencing a, “if THEY build it, THEY will keep coming BACK” opportunity to provide new interactive experiences.
3. Customized—one size does not fit all. When we allow for individualized learning to take place tailored to each child’s unique learning style, we set them up to win and giving them the best chance for building new competencies, acquiring new learning and adding new abilities like how to be a member of the church, follower of Jesus, contributor to the body of Christ, etc.
4. Digitally enhanced—Today’s generation of inherently expert and skilled digital natives basically requires that programming for them now be digitally enhanced. You have to speak the language of your audience.
Here is what we expect the specific outcomes to be from the implementation of Incredible Islands.
1. Increase the time children spend engaging in Scripture
2. Increase their ability to apply Scripture to their lives in a meaningful way
3. Increase self-expression while intentionally growing relationships
4. Increase their knowledge of educational concepts
5. Extend the reach of Christian organizations’ by enabling them to disciple children throughout the week
It will take time to assemble the full panel of results the impact of this and other digital ministry tools will ultimately have. However, we are encouraged by the overwhelmingly positive response to the Bible App for Kids and the initial reports from the Incredible Islands beta testing phase. Preliminary results show that a child spends an average of 1 hour 20 minutes playing Incredible Islands throughout the week, which more than doubles the impact of a 60-minute weekend program!
Realizing that children require spiritually mature discipleship to help mediate their growth and experiences, we have been working hard to create not only this, but a wide variety of digital initiatives like the Bible App for Kids, OneHope Customized and more to be used by parents in partnership with local churches to aid in the transition to an effective 21st century children’s ministry paradigm.
Want to learn more about Incredible Islands or give it a try? Visit www.incredibleislands.com and request a log in for a free 30-day trial. For churches ready to step into the future of children’s ministry and begin integrating Incredible Islands into their programming, here’s where to start.