Ministering to Media-Minded Kids

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A friend was telling the story of Jesus walking on the water as
a children’s sermon. “As I explained to them how Peter got out of
the boat and walked toward Jesus,” he said, “a little boy shot
back, ‘That’s nothin’-You should’ve seen how the Hulkster picked up
Andre the Giant all by himself and threw him out of the ring! That
was awesome!’ So much for miracles,” he lamented.

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Welcome to the media generation. At any given time of day children
can be found sitting cross-legged on the floor bathed in blue light
from the tube, battling video villians at the corner Wal-Mart, or
“rapped” in a world fed to them by miniature music boxes attached
to their belts. Is it any wonder that our traditional ways of
sharing the faith story seem so pedestrian?

But you don’t have to turn your church or Sunday school into a
video arcade to get children’s attention. Here are some ideas for
sharing the gospel with those media-smart whiz kids.

TELL A GOOD STORY

My favorite Bible professor in college was an extraordinary man by
the name of Webb Pomeroy. Without the aid of sound effects or
overhead projects, Pomeroy literally brought the Bible to life for
me and my classmates using a simple technique. He was a master of
the ancient art of storytelling. He didn’t just lecture on
Jeremiah. Instead he told us the story of “Crazy Jerry.” On one
occasion he referred to the Ark of the Covenant as “God in the
Box.” Without compromising the integrity of the scriptures, Pomeroy
painted vivid pictures no video could ever capture, because he
painted them on the canvas of our imaginations.

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Let’s face it — a flannel board is a poor match for Masters of
the Universe. But before you install a satellite dish on the
children’s wing, think about the average Saturday morning cartoon.
Take away the visual and sound effects and what’s usually left is a
pretty weak story line. You, on the other hand, have at your
disposal some of the greatest drama, adventure, and yes, even
humor, in all of literature. Storytelling is a time-honored art,
and although you may be tempted to simply sit children around a VCR
to “veg out” on a Bible video, resist it. Try telling the
story-face to face, and this time with feeling! Here are some tips
I gleaned from watching Pomeroy over the years:

1. Start where the children are. You may want to
introduce a story by saying “This morning we’re going to ‘leap’
into another time and place. Imagine that you are ( ).” Now you’re
speaking THEIR language.

2. Look for the humor in the Bible. Look for the twists,
the moments, the ironies. Your story tie will spring to life, and
the children will be spellbound.

3. Understand the meaning. The stories in the Bible are
there for a reason. They are first and foremost truth stories. That
is, they contain nuggets of truth. Although you don’t have to end
every story with “and the moral is…”, it’s important that you as
the storyteller are aware of the writer’s aim.

For Pomeroy, a biblical story was a dramatic event. Don’t
underestimate the value of a well told story. You may wish to look
into various storytelling workshops that are available, or check
out your local bookstore for tips on the art of storytelling. (See
sidebar.)

LET THE CHILDREN USE VIDEO TO TELL THE
STORY.

I first saw this done at a Vacation Bible School, but this
approach also makes a great weekend activity for a confirmation
class. Here’s how:

1. Pick a favorite story from the Bible. Have the
children read it ahead of time.

2. Re-read the story when the children get together.
Explain to them they’re to turn it into a production. It could be a
drama, a soap, even a news story. Could you imagine doing the
parable of the good Samaritan as a “Rescue 911″ story?

3. Divide your group into production teams. Script
writers, wardrobe, sets and a technical crew to run a camcorder.
With the Bible and their imaginations, you’ll be surprised at what
they’ll come up with! Have someone on hand who can handle technical
problems that arise. Remember the focus should be on the
story.

4. Share the video with your congregation. Put together a
premier gala event. It helps children feel good about their
work!

USE MEDIA TO ILLUSTRATE YOUR LESSONS

Song lyrics, vignettes from movies, and TV characters can all help
you communicate with children effectively. What is God like? the
fiery image of the Wizard of Oz? Cinderella’s fairy godmother?
Using images from a child’s own experience can be an ideal way to
launch into some interesting discussions.

USE THE SENSES

“Today movies and television shows do what churches used to do in
past centuries,” remarked a Minister/TV actor friend of mine. At
first I balked at the thought. Then he explained:

“There was a time when worship was considered a dramatic
experience. For congregations who were by and large non-readers,
the music, the aromas, the visual symbols, the spoken word, even
the pealing of bells all were part of a holistic ‘production,’ if
you will, that communicated the faith story.”

Today many churches go through the motions, but the emotion is
gone. One of the most meaningful things a minister can do for
children is to engage all the senses in worship, not just hearing
alone. The aroma of candles, the swell of the organ, the stillness
of prayer, the pealing of a lone bell all create meaningful and
lasting impressions on children that remain with them all their
lives.

Above all, children need to have real experiences (including
worship) in which they experience being a part of a genuine, loving
community. No gimmick or electronic gadget will ever take the place
of a community of faith that is grounded in God’s love. And isn’t
that what the church is really all about? n

Vince Isner is a media project coordinator in Tennessee. He
has worked with children for 14 years.

This book is geared more for reading than for storytelling, but is
an excellent resource for developing the art of reading aloud to
children.

Copyright© 1992 Group Publishing, Inc./Children’s Ministry
Magazine

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