Mar 14, 2012

The Decline of the Printed Page and What It Means for Children's Ministry

The printed page continues to slide toward it's apparent demise. 

Newspapers are rapidly declining.
  • In the last 4 years, revenues have decreased by 44%.
  • In the last 4 years, 13,500 newspaper journalists have lost their jobs.
  • U.S. Newsrooms have lost 25% of their staff.
  • 41% of people read news online compared to only 31% who read print newspapers.

How are print magazines doing?
  • In the last 5 years, thousands have gone out of business with many more moving to a web format.
  • After 16 years, Nickelodeon magazine for kids was shut down.

What about the printed book?
  • In the last two years many bookstores have gone out of business including large chains like Borders.  Barnes and Nobles is the last big chain to remain.  Are Barnes and Nobles days numbered as well?
  • Amazon now sells more e-books than print books.  The last known ratio was 115 e-books for every 100 print books sold.
  • The third generation Kindle is the best selling product ever on Amazon.
  • 25% of young adult books were e-books in January 2012. 
  • Britannica Encyclopedia has announced what we all knew was coming: the print version is no more.

What do these seismic shifts mean for Children's Ministry?

We must understand that communication formats change.  The printed page is simply a form of communication.  Before that were scrolls made with parchment.  Before that were clay tablets.  Words are words whether they are written on a scroll or on the screen of an iPad.

We must be willing to communicate with the next generation in formats they connect with.  Studies show that schools will decrease their paper consumption by 90% in the next ten years.  Normally the church lags behind several years.  But eventually, there may be a day when kids will bring digital Bibles to church instead of print Bibles.  Look around.  You are gradually becoming surrounded by people who read their Bibles and other books in a digital format instead of a print one.

As the printed page continues to decline, we will have to shift to digital communication formats if we want to connect with coming generations.  I am a digital immigrant.  I can remember when there were no pc's, iPads, cell phones, etc.  My future grandchildren will be digital natives.  They will grow up with digital formats.  Will the church be ready to speak their language?

We must adjust our communication with parents.  Print copies of take home papers will become less and less relevant.  The shift has already begun for many churches.  We are in the process of phasing out hard copy take home papers.  We are now sending text messages to parents each week with questions from the lesson, announcements, etc.  We also do much of our communication online through email, video, and a parent Facebook page. 

We must provide more digital formats of registration.  People are becoming more and more hesitant to fill out hard copy, paper registration forms.  We must continue to shift toward online registration for events, classes, camps, etc.  This may even mean having computer kiosks set up or iPads available on weekends where people can sign up for these things.

We must be willing to provide more digital resources and less paper resources.  The day of the printed curriculum student book is quickly declining.  Curriculum publishers who have not already done so, will be forced to shift to online curriculum and resources.  Downloadable will continue to become the norm.

What other shifts or changes do you see coming in Children's Ministry with the decline of the printed page?

What are some things you are doing to navigate through these changes?

What are some other things you believe Children's Ministry must do to stay relevant in the midst of these changes?

Would enjoy seeing your thoughts and ideas in the comment section below.

Posted by Dale Hudson

3 comments:

Dale, your post couldn't be more relevant! I'll add, the switch from paper to digital also comes with tremendous advantages. I’ll mention just two: The multi-sensory and often interactive experience caters to varied learning styles. Also, when hosted on the Web these tools become dynamic and extend children’s connection to your ministry throughout the week. I cannot resist mentioning that Impress Kids is using Web and mobile technology to transform paper-based Bible memory. Check us out at www.ImpressKids.com

Thanks for sharing John. I look forward to checking out the website.

Dale, you've made some very good points. As a children's church leader, we've already moved to getting our curriculum online. We subscribe to one of the curriculum producers that give us everything as pdf's. Whether I print it or view it on my computer/tablet is my preference.

As someone who works in the Christian publishing industry, this has been quite a challenge. We are continually looking for ways to keep up with technology while servicing churches that haven't caught up yet.

These are exciting and anxious times!

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