I have the good fortune of working with a bright, gifted group of kids who are being raised by loving parents devoted to their Christian formation. These children have attended church regularly since they were babies and to say they are well-versed in Bible stories would be an understatement. As a result, I often find myself challenged to find or develop a program that actually teaches them something they don’t already know. Creativity is an indispensable part of my job.
Last winter as Lent drew closer, I mustered the courage to attempt a project that had been rumbling around in my mind for years.
Why not make a movie?
Media technology is quickly becoming an indispensable tool in formation and it was time that I brought a little to my own repertoire. The kids already know the stories, so why not have them be the story-tellers in their own quirky way? The only obstacle … my utter lack of tech skills. I am thoroughly impressed with myself if I can take a decent photograph with my cell phone. Making a movie about God? That would require a miracle.
Fortunately, God sent some tech help. I reached out to the Forma network and was directed to Alex Haralson who recommended not just the right video-editing software for our budget, but also the right movie genre. Making a dramatic movie with elementary kids would simply not work and capturing good audio with my limited talent and resources would be impossible. So we made settled upon a a silly silent-movie with some narration and sound effects.
Then God provided the content.
Originally, I planned for the kids to tell the big-picture biblical narrative in five minutes with a series of short vignettes. Then I realized it was impossible to tell an authentic story of God in only five minutes. I had to narrow the scope somehow. Godly Play offers a great baptism story describing the triune nature of God – creator, redeemer and sustainer That became our starting point and the project just took off from there.
The kids and I spent five Wednesday evenings braving unseasonably cold temperatures, gusty wind and formidable hunger to create a movie telling a little bit of who God is to us. I use the phrases “a little bit” and “to us” on purpose. Telling the story of who God is takes a lifetime, and we all have unique experiences and perspectives that we might share in that story.
There is no complete script, not even the Bible. God is bigger than the Bible or any single person’s interpretation of it. In our movie, we tell the story of who God is through the eyes of eleven remarkable kids, using the supplies and costumes we had on hand. The end result is twenty-seven minutes of silliness, complete with more than a sufficient number of dabs.
Of course, God’s grace was also present. I’d be a liar to write that this endeavor was 100% fun and relaxed. There was plenty of stress and, sadly, even a few tears. Yet God gave us the needed patience, forgiveness and second takes.
I find myself frustrated sometimes when I walk away from a Sunday school class or a Children’s Worship experience and see that very little attention was given to the actual message. Whether the kids were distracted by an upcoming holiday or just in cranky mood, it is demoralizing for any ministry leader to feel that God’s message was not heard in spite of their best efforts. This movie-making experience, however, worked. It allowed the kids to consider and know God through their own actions, words, and imaginations.
Serving God often requires us to leave our comfort zone behind, very far behind, and this was no exception. The movie is messy, amateur and unfortunately a bit bouncy. The video editor (me) was a supreme disappointment. But the kids learned and grew, and so did I. And now we have a finished project to share our love of God and our joy in his presence among us.
You can watch our video, “God is…” at https://youtu.be/FQIpHSuvHVA.
How have you incorporated media technology into your children’s formation?