Saturday, June 23, 2012


I've seen some kids totally mesmerized by a well prepared, well done flannelgraph show. This was because 1) some of the kids had never seen flannelgraph before, and 2) the teacher was so good, she could have used a bowl of dry oatmeal to get her point across.  But for a lot of children (dare I say the majority), static images on a felt background aren't going to engage the senses all the time. The fact that many kids are exposed to, engaged in, or absorbed with television, video games, movies, and the internet means that those of us involved in children's ministries should be ready to meet the challenge. While the age of the flannelgraph is not dead, it is not the only methodology available to us.

I am unapologetic in the structured use of media to minister to children.  Of course, there are those who would disagree:

  • "Kids are watching too much tv today."
  • "I don't allow my kids to watch cartoons."
  • "Church isn't a place for entertainment."
  • "Passive activity is bad for kids...bad, bad, bad!"
  • "Back in my day, we had....flannelgraph!"    And on it goes.

I don't intend to get into a point by point refutation of the these statements, because I think there might be some legitimate concerns hidden within some of them.  Yes, kids watch a lot of television today.  Yes, plopping the children in front of the tv just to have them soak up cartoons for hours is not healthy. But what the above points fail to address is the idea that technology and media are tools that, when used properly, can be very effective in getting our message across. To borrow a time-worn cliche, let's not throw the proverbial baby out with the bathwater.

PBS discovered early on that, by using colorful, goofy puppets and changing scenes relatively quickly, that they could actually teach such basic concepts as numbers and the alphabet.  Sesame Street was born.  I can still see some of the sements in my mind.  I can recite the preamble to the U.S. Constitution, not because I set out to memorize it, but because I learned a song on Schoolhouse Rock.  There have been studies done (our church's day care center actually participated in one) that demonstrate that video can actually be used as an active teaching tool. Why not harness that potential to help children and their families grow in their faith?

Yes, I know, media can be abused.  It can be abused by the world, and it can overused by the church.  That's a fair point.  After all, children's ministry is about relationships, not gadgets and gizmos.  But to many kids (except maybe those coming from a highly sheltered background), the "wow" of video and technology is the "cup of cold water" that can serve as the catalyst to build those relationships and to introduce or strengthen the ultimate relationship: the one with the Lord Jesus Christ.

Don't be afraid.  It can start with a television or a video screen.

After all, flannelgraph was once "new technology" too.

No comments:

Post a Comment