7 Simple and Effective Ways to Reach Today’s Visual Generation
Published: February 18, 2020
Why do kids love screens so much? And how can we minister to children whose minds seem centered on electronics? Here are 7 amazingly simple but effective ways to reach today’s visual generation.
A great task lies before you. You’re in a room full of children, and you’re trying to keep order, but nothing you try works. When you glance at your watch, horror strikes your soul: There are still 45 minutes left before the children’s parents return! You’ve just used your last game and last song, and now you wish you had some great videos to survive the next 45 minutes.
Suddenly you see the magic button! You rush over and push it! The kids grow strangely quiet and sit down. They’re mesmerized. You’ve captured their attention, and they’re absorbed by what’s in front of them. Why are they captivated? Because you just pushed play on the DVD player or streaming video.
Yes, it’s true. The children you and I minister to are part of the visual generation. Christian apologist Ravi Zacharias says that this postmodern culture “hears with its eyes and thinks with its feelings.”
The Impact of Media
Due to video games, television, movies, and the Internet, the majority of children respond extremely well to visual interaction. The average child watches over 18,000 hours of television before high school graduation. Children today see more movies than they read books.
As a result, they come to our churches with expectations that are out of harmony with our traditional approaches. What worked for previous generations may not be working for them. You see, our message is timeless, but our methods must change to effectively communicate that message to children in this culture. Leonard Sweet, in his book SoulTsunami, says, “The church is still on dirt roads, or worse yet, cowpaths. We are trying to pave cowpaths with asphalt when we should be building the superhighway with electronics.”
The secular world spends billions of dollars each year to convey visual messages to our children. Cartoons are available 24 hours a day. Kids can stream movies 24-hours-a-day. Children’s movies are a dominating force the entertainment industry. Almost everything kids are exposed to today is geared to enter their hearts through their eyes. The secular world knows what the church has failed for the most part to recognize: What kids see, they remember.
Three years ago we decided with God’s help to touch this visual generation through the language of their culture. We still have a long way to go and are constantly looking for ways to improve. We realize that change is constant and that we may need to do some things differently in the future, but as of today we’ve committed to do these seven things to touch this visual generation with God’s Word.
7 Simple and Effective Way to Reach Today’s Visual Generation
1.Train teachers to constantly use visual aids as they teach.
We’ve found that in today’s culture, very few teachers have the ability to hold children’s attention without visual aids. Experts tell us that we only remember about 10 percent of what we hear but as much as 50 percent of what we see and hear. When our teachers use visual aids, student retention goes up 500 percent! Experts also tell us that only 13 percent of our present knowledge came from the sense of hearing, but 75 percent came through the sense of sight.
We encourage our teachers each week to bring visual aids into their teaching. A simple object from your home can help the children in your class remember the lesson and put it into practice that week. A pair of your baby shoes and your current shoes can show how much you’ve grown physically and be used to encourage kids to keep growing spiritually. Use videos, puppets, object lessons, masks, costumes, posters, puzzles, and anything else visual you can get your hands on. For a powerful visual, record your kids acting out a Bible passage. Then let kids watch themselves.
2. Use presentation software to the maximum in children’s services.
Presentation software have enabled us to make visual presentations. In our church, every song, Bible verse, review game, and lesson in our children’s services is projected on a large screen. With these programs, we can place animated images in our presentations for a new visual level. There’s something animated on screen through just about every part of our services. Presentation software programs are excellent tools for sharing God’s Word with this visual generation.
3. Play Christian music videos.
Music videos are such a big part of today’s visual culture. We use contemporary Christian music videos to convey positive, life-changing messages to the children while they’re waiting for the service to start or for their parents to pick them up afterward. We want to take advantage of every moment to touch kids visually for Christ. In our hallways, we’ve also mounted several televisions, and we have music videos playing as the children enter their rooms.
Some children have been watching music videos during the week that don’t portray Christian values. Christian music videos can show kids the love of Christ and a lifestyle that honors God.
4. Illustrate lessons with video clips.
Jesus spoke to his generation through relevant life stories and parables. And the stories and parables of this visual generation are movies. Many times when it comes to sharing the great stories of the Bible, we not only tell the story, but we make it come alive through video. Instead of just verbally telling the story, we show a clip from the Jesus film of him walking on the water (www.jesusfilm.org). Not only do we want to tell the visual generation about the story, but we want to show them.
A well-planned video clip from a current movie can illustrate a Bible truth. There are several books that can help you find the appropriate video clip for a passage or topic. Two of my favorites are Dinner and a Movie: G-Rated and Group’s Movie Night Series. Of course, use wisdom and show only age-appropriate video clips for the group you’re teaching. We never use any clips that are offensive or that we feel parents wouldn’t approve of.
5. Capture kid’s attention with rapid visual change.
In my office I often have one of two popular children’s TV channels (Nickelodeon and the Disney Channel) playing. I’m amazed at how fast the images change on the shows and the commercials. Every few seconds, a new bright, colorful image appears. It’s major visual stimulation.
This is the world our children live in. The quick changes create short attention spans. Many times at church, though, kids face a “talking head” for long periods of time (and we wonder why they’re bored and seem uninterested). For a child, there’s no greater pain than having to sit through 30 to 45 minutes of lecture. So we purposely plan our children’s services for something to change every two to three minutes. The children don’t have time to get bored as we share the truths of God’s Word with changing visual methods.
6. Use highly interactive on-screen review games.
Each week after the lesson is over, we use visual games to reinforce the Bible truths the children have learned that day. There’s a company called LearningWare Inc. that puts out a series of incredible, interactive, visual review games. We use this system to create Bible Jeopardy, Bible Tic-Tac-Toe, Bible Family Feud, Bible Wheel of Fortune, and Is That Your Final Answer? You can program each of these games with review questions from your lesson that day. They’re visually stimulating, and kids love to play them. They can be played in a large game show setting or in a small group.
7. Reach out to the world through the internet.
The number of children online at earlier and earlier ages is staggering—and will only continue to grow.
We’ve developed our own Web site for the children of our church and the children around the world we’re trying to reach with the gospel. Through online coloring contests, cutting-edge gospel presentations, games, and online Bible lessons, we’ve touched children across America and around the world.
Chances are, there are people in your church who can help you develop a Web site. They may just be waiting to be asked. Share with them the opportunity they have to reach children through the Internet, and they’ll come alongside you in fulfilling this vision.
We Must Act Now
Time is short. We cannot afford to squander the opportunities God has placed before us. Will we look back 15 years from now and realize we didn’t know the culture and stuck with irrelevant methods that weren’t effective? Will we look back and see that we didn’t use the tools and technology God made available to us to reach children for Christ? Are we willing to lay down our traditions, our “we’ve always done it that way” methods, and say, “God, if it’s not working, then show me what to do. I want to effectively touch this generation with your Word”?
Will these methods work in your area of the country or world? Absolutely! We’ve found that these methods of visual communication have worked time and time again to reach children and their families for Christ. Recently a family at our church shared their story with us. The family members had tried going to church before, but their child always came home saying he didn’t like it and didn’t want to go back. But when they visited our church and picked him up afterward, they said he was smiling! He loved it! For the first time, he said he wanted to come back to church.
They’re now members of our church. I believe this family was reached because we brought God’s Word to this child through the visual venue of the generation he’s a part of. There’s a whole generation that’s looking for the answer to the emptiness in their souls. Let’s turn the eyes of the visual generation toward Christ. One look at him will change their lives forever!
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