My nearly-five-year-old daughter loves ABCMouse.com. And I have to admit: it’s pretty terrific. Sure, the images and animations are very simple, and sometimes they games seem way too easy for the designed age group. But I like that she’s engaging in something educational and entertaining at the same time, and she likes that she’s singing along with dancing squirrels or assembling digital puzzles or popping all the red bubbles that come tumbling out of the magical bubble-maker.
It’s often led me to wonder: what can we learn from something like ABCMouse for how we teach our children the things that matter most to us — for passing on the biblical stories, the values we cherish, the truths on which we are building our lives? If I can use ABCMouse to sit with my daughter and sing about the Amazing Letter A, could I use something similar to engage her with the faith I want to pass on to her?
In other words, is it possible to reinvent the family devotional for the twenty-first century? I’ve often thought that there’s a massive opening in the marketplace for a company that utilizes new media technologies (internet, social media, mobile devices, internet-based television) to deliver “family devotional” material that’s entertaining and educational.
I had even thought that I might be involved in producing some material along these lines — and still might, through a client of mine, Rhemedia. Little did I know that a dear friend of mine was already involved in producing an interactive Bible storybook for the iPad.
My friend is Brent Dusing, CEO of Lightside Games. Lightside developed two Facebook games, Journey of Moses and Journey of Jesus, that are played by millions of people. But most of those millions are adults. The production values of the games are quite high — they match other popular games that are popular on Facebook and mobile devices. You may or may not like Facebook games, and may or may not like the in-game purchases approach, but these games have spread around the world and I’ve seen the kinds of messages he gets from people who really appreciate spending some time in the biblical narrative world.
Now Lightside has produced its first product specifically geared for kids. The Journey of Jesus app tells some favorite Bible stories and focuses on Jesus’ first miracle, the turning of water into wine. It ends with a “moral” about trusting God. I’m about 32 years too old for it, of course, but my daughter had a great time. We went through it twice one night, and three times the next night, and she requested that we go through it for the third night in a row. That tells me they’re on to something.
What was important to me was that it opened up an opportunity to talk about Jesus Christ and what he means for the world. How, when we trust in him, he turns the ordinary things of our lives into sacred and beautiful things for his kingdom.
So I asked Brent some questions about it.
“We’re always told as parents that we should be spiritual leaders,” he said, “but we don’t have many tools that actually appeal to our children. When I noticed that my daughters were always taking my iPad, I saw an opportunity to recast the way in which kids experience the Bible and parents can spend time in the Word with them.”
Chapters will be released once per month, giving parents a regular way to engage the Bible stories with their children and reflect on what they mean. It’s a family devotional for the digital age.
“Kids can name the four houses at Hogwarts but they can’t name the four gospels,” said Brent. ”We can change that, but we need to make Bible learning fun.”
I don’t normally talk about products in this blog, but perhaps I should. I think this is a great tool, and not just because my friend Brent made it. If you have an iPad, try it out, and let me know what you think.
And answer for me the bigger question: How do you get your kids into the Bible? How can we revive the family devotional today?