Want to Know if Kids Enjoy Your Ministry? Do This to Find Out

Do kids really enjoy your ministry?  Would they come if their parents gave them the option to stay home?  Do their parents drag them to church or do they drag their parents to church? 

There is a simple way you can find out. 

Recent technology has been released that big entertainment companies like Disney are using to measure the engagement level of people during movies, events, rides, etc.  It's called FVAEs.

FVAEs stands for "Factorised Variational Autoencoders."  It's facial recognition technology that tracks and translates data points on a person's face into a series of numbers representing specific reactions such as smiling, laughing, wide open eyes, yawning, etc.  The data allows companies to assess how an audience is reacting to a movie, ride, etc.  They can see if viewers are reacting at the right time and place.  Are they laughing at the jokes?  Are they surprised at a sudden reveal?  Are they tensing up at tense moment?  Are their eyes watering during a sad part of the movie?  The system is so sharp that it can predict how a member of the audience will react to the rest of a movie after just a few minutes.  

Disney research team uses a 400-seat theatre equipped with four infrared cameras to record audience data during showing of mainstream movies like "The Jungle Book", "Big Hero 6", "Star Wars", and "Zootopia."

Now I know what you are thinking. 

We are on a limited budget and can't afford to use FVAE technology to track children and parent engagement levels in our services, classes and events.  

Here's the good news.  You can still use this premise to find out if kids and parents are enjoying your ministry.   

All you need to do is be intentional about watching their faces. 

Here are a few ways.

Set up a video camera (with parental consent) and record the kids' faces during the service.  Then go back and watch the tape.  When did they laugh?  When did they get restless?  When were they looking intently to the front?  When were they daydreaming? 

Another way you can do this is the assign a volunteer to watch kids and parents faces during the program, event, service, etc.  He or she can make notes about when people were paying attention, not engaging, yawning, laughing, etc. 

Then analyze the data with the corresponding part of the service, program, class, event, etc.  Did they laugh at the jokes, skits, etc.?  Did they engage with the lesson?  Did they seem like they were having fun during the activities?  Did you see in any tears being wiped away during a touching part of the service?  Did they actually sing during worship? 

Once you've analyzed your data, you can go back and tweak those parts of the service, program, class, etc. to make it more engaging. 

Blues Clues is considered by many to be the most engaging children's show ever made.  Why?  They did exactly what we are talking about.  Before an episode was put on the air, they brought in groups of kids to watch it.  They made notes when kids looked away, disengaged, got bored, etc.  Then they went back and tweaked those parts of the show to make it more engaging.  The results were phenomenal and brought in top honors in the world of children's television. 

"Look" into doing this (sorry for the bad pun) and you will begin seeing kids enjoy your ministry more than ever. 

p.s. you can get more great ideas for helping kids enjoy your ministry in the book "If Disney Ran Your Children's Ministry."  It's available at this link.