M y son just finished fourth grade. He is the exact age that a lot of boys start to complain about church and want to quit coming.
Luckily, thanks to the efforts of my staff colleagues, we have a special program for fifth and sixth grade students, aptly named “fifty6,” that helps them transition from elementary age teaching and programming to student ministry. But before he started fifty6, for the past several months, he’s been coming with me on Sunday mornings to church but has hated the thought of going to elementary aged programming.
Instead, he wants to play his iPad all the time.
This has presented a dilemma for me – do I force him to go to the fourth grade group, as some parents do, and risk him developing a bad taste in his mouth for church life? Yet, he needs to be plugged in and meet people.
Do I let him hang with me on Sunday mornings, and give him a mixed diet of a little screen time and worship attendance with me? This keeps him close to me, which he wants, and gives him some good exposure to adult worship, but doesn’t offer him much age appropriate teaching. (Not that traditional classroom environments are a good teaching method for his generation anyway.)
While we lived in TN, we attended Lifechurch.tv’s Hendersonville campus. Their Life Kids environment was truly innovative – churchy types might clutch their chests at the large screen based teaching, and points to earn and prizes to win, but my son learned more scripture and had more eagerness to learn scripture in that time of our life than he has had at any other period. So the results speak for themselves.
But, since I can’t yet create a visual curriculum at my church, I did the next best thing: I recruited him to help me make a video.
Here is my son, along with two other fourth grade boys, reading the text for the week. We ran this clip at the beginning of the sermon in worship, and also used it as a teaching moment to talk about the value of engaging new generations with the Bible.
While the video hasn’t been his sole exposure to the faith life, it has been an important piece. It’s participatory – he’s engaged in making something cool.
And the last two nights, he’s been reading Genesis. This morning he told me about the part where God tells Noah that he’s going to stop making 1000 year old humans, but cap life span at 120 years old instead.