Why Screens Can't Replace Face-to-Face Children's Ministry

I love using videos in children's ministry.  But not for the entire teaching time.  Some curriculum use videos to bring the entire teaching part of the lesson.  I don't believe that is the most effective method of teaching.

Why?  Because screens can't replace face-to-face children's ministry.

Developmental psychologist Georgene Troseth, PhD, studied 176 toddlers, ages 23 to 32 months.  The children were divided into younger and older groups. Some of the toddlers from each group watched a teacher, in person, label an object that the kids had not seen before. The name of the object was made-up.

The other toddlers watched the same teacher doing the demonstration by Skyping through a video screen. Then a researcher asked the child to choose the named object. “Whether the person was actually Skyping, pausing, or waving for the child’s attention, they still did not learn the novel word for the novel object when it was on video,” explained Troseth.

This and other studies lead to the conclusion that kids learn best from face-to-face interaction.

Now as I said, I'm all for using videos for worship and for setting up the teaching time.  But for the actual teaching and small group time, I believe the majority of the time should be face-to-face with a caring volunteer.

Yes.  Gen Z connects well with images.  Someone said, "Today's kids hear with their eyes."  And that is true...to an extent.  But I also believe that nothing can take the place of face-to-face interaction.

As the study suggested, this is especially true in your nursery and early childhood areas.  The volunteers that serve in these areas have the opportunity to make a huge impact in children's lives.  If you are reading this and you serve in the nursery and early childhood areas, you are not babysitting. You have the opportunity to make a big difference in the children's lives.  Look at them face-to-face and tell them Jesus loves them.  Look at them face-to-face and quote a verse from God's Word to them.  Look at them face-to-face and sing a song to them.

Elementary volunteers.  Look into the eyes of the kids and tell them how important they are to you and God.  Let them know God has big plans for their life as they follow Him.  Talk with them.  Let them share prayer requests with you.  The more face-to-face time you invest in the children, the bigger impact you will make.

Years from how, the grown up children who used to be in your ministry, will look back and remember something.  It probably won't be a video lesson you showed them.  It won't be the cool on-screen graphics that you used.  It probably won't be the fun worship song they sang.

What they will remember is that you were there.  You were there and you took a personal interest in them.  You looked at them face-to-face and prayed over them.  You looked at them face-to-face as you quoted a Bible verse together.  You looked at them face-to-face as you gave them the opportunity to ask questions about the lesson.

Why is it so important that your ministry has great ratios?  Because kids need volunteers who can make a personal connection with them.  And that's hard to do when the ratio is 15 to 1 in elementary and 3 to 1 in the nursery.

Spiritual growth for kids happens best when they are able to make a face-to-face connection with a caring volunteer.

Relationships are more easily formed when volunteers are given time to make face-to-face connections with the kids.  And we know that discipleship happens best when it is face-to-face.

As I said earlier, I'm all for using videos, graphics and cool worship videos. Below is an example of this from the Connect 12 curriculum I created.  But videos are not the main thing.  They are used to seque into face-to-face teaching and discussions.  Videos are used to start a face-to-face conversation about a topic.

Here's an example.

The set up for this video is asking kids how they feel when they are lined up and are waiting to be picked for a team.  Waiting...hoping...that they will not be picked last or even be left out.  This leads to a face-to-face lesson and discussion where kids learn that Jesus has picked them.  He says "I love you.  I picked you when I died on the cross for you and I pick you now as my child.  You are special to me and I love you."
If you are reading this by email and cannot see the video, you can access it at this link. 

The curriculum is also available at this link.

Think about it.  If you grew up in church, you probably can list the people who really impacted your life.  It was the people who invested in you face-to-face.  You can still see their face and can remember how they personally showed you how to be a follower of Jesus.

Videos?  Yes.
Worship videos? Yes
Video skits?  Yes
Video illustrations? Yes
Videos taking the place of a live volunteer teacher?  No

Uses screens to disciple children is not an either or.  It's a both and.  Screen some.  Face-to-Face time just as much or more.

Your turn.  What are your thoughts about using screens to teach and disciple kids?  Share your thoughts in the comment section below.