How to connect with parents online

I officially received my “I’m old” card when we took my oldest daughter to sign up for Kindergarten.  My daughter will be one of the fine members of the class of 2023.  In our school district, a lot of information is shared with parents online.  I’m wondering, when will the church catch up? Author and blogger Ian Jukes told me once that the field of public education operates 10 years behind technology.  If that is true, how far behind does the church operate? I know the big question that many churches and leaders are asking is, how do we resource parents?  Are there any web-based connecting tools to link parents and kids to what’s going on at church, similar to the tools used by school districts?  The most innovative ideas we have at present involve printing a piece of paper or sending a stylized email.  In the digital age, that’s just not going to cut it (and presently it is not).   What are the innovative ways churches are connecting with parents digitally? For insight into an e-learning connection public education tool, see:...

Learning from Video Games: Impatience

I just came across an article entitled, “I Want It Now! The Fierce Urgency of Videogaming’s Future.” The article identified a key characteristic of today’s video game consumer: impatience.  Ever heard of Farmville?  The insanely popular Facebook game’s chief game designer recently pinpointed that many gamers lose interest in a game because the game takes too long to load.  Take a guess about how long Farmville takes to load…. Six seconds. That’s it. Here’s a quote from the article by Stephen Wadsworth, Disney’s President of Interactive Media Group: “The 20th-century notion of waiting around to watch shows when they air on television, or saving up to buy CDs, is quickly becoming antiquated as technology makes it easy to consume movies, TV and music on demand. As game development and distribution methods evolve, the same trends are changing the way the videogame industry works.” Hang around a kid with Internet access and try explaining an old movie to them.  See how long it takes for them to tune you out and look up the movie on YouTube.  They want everything right now. Here are a couple other highlights from the article: Close to half of children’s television is either time-shifted (through the use of a DVR) or done on a mobile device. While kids are happy to come to (Disneyland) and spend hours in line for Space Mountain, they’ve got a very short threshold when it comes to interactive media. So kids are impatient, is this really a digital characteristic?  When they start getting impatient after waiting six seconds because they can find something (or anything) in three seconds online, then...

Informed by Gaming

Several years ago I stood in front of a group of children’s ministry volunteers and leaders at Elmbrook Church in Brookfield, Wisconsin.  For the very first time, I shared my thoughts on how digital kids learned and the challenges ahead for the field of children’s and family ministry.  One of the big questions from that presentation that has stayed with me over the past six years has been: What if children’s ministry became more like a video game than a book? Steven Johnson wrote in his must-read work, Everything Bad is Good for You: Video games are 3D landscapes and soundscapes.  They require complex muscular movements and the answers are almost never provided and there are multiple threads to constantly consider.  Games are often played in community, a global network of like-minded, diverse gamers.  The instruction manuals to many of these games are useless because the gamer is required to test the limits of the system.  Gamers are always asking, “What’s happening right now? What if children’s ministry became like a video game?  Not cheap fluff entertainment, but a visually and mentally stimulating immersion into Biblical community and fellowship with Christ? Because I am still wrestling with this question, this month I am going to highlight a few resources I have come across that relate children’s and family ministry to the practice of video games. I’ll point you first to Gaming in the Classroom. Lee Sheldon, a professor at Indiana University, created a course that was modeled after a video game.  According to the blog, “Every student has an avatar name, creates group project in their guilds, and earns...

Fifty Dangerous Things (you should let your children do)

Fifty Dangerous Things (you should let your children do) is a book by Gever Tulley and Julie Spiegler.  The title explains it all as the book contains fifty different dangerous projects for kids to do with care and supervision.  The book includes a section for parents because the purpose of the book (according to Tulley) is to “start a deliberate effort to start a national and global dialogue about what we are really doing when we [parents] overprotect children, which is to keep them from having the kinds of experiences that lay the foundations for creative genius.” Here are some of the activities: Throw a rock Climb a tree Put your hand out the window of a car Play with the vacuum cleaner Put strange stuff in the microwave Cook something in the dishwasher Super glue your fingers together This is an interesting book for me because I’m always looking for new, creative resources and ideas to use with kids.  But the more I looked into the book, I realized that this might be a great tool for parents, especially dads to use with their kids.  As a dad, I’m always trying to answer the question, “What should we do today?”  I want my time with our two daughters to be amazing and heart-shaping.  So I plan on using Fifty Dangerous Things in this regard, maybe I’ll look for corresponding dangerous things from Scripture to relate to each experience in the book. For more on Gever Tulley watch “Five Dangerous Things You Should Let Your Children Do.” or Life Lessons Through Tinkering or view the Tinkering School web...