Five-year-old John (not his real name) usually comes into his classroom at church with boundless energy and an I’m-here-let’s-get-started attitude. However on this particular Sunday morning, he clung to his parents like Velcro®. After I peeled him off his dad, I sat on the floor with John and introduced him to The Gospel Project for Kids Family App on my tablet.
Disclaimer: I fully believe that when preschoolers are at church they should receive personalized attention from a living, breathing adult. Nothing, including mobile devices, should take the place of one-on-one interaction between teachers and kids — nothing!
That said, technological devices are great tools for teaching children the Bible. But that’s all they are, tools. Technology has been around for a long time. There was a period in history in which Bibles were only accessible to church leaders. The “common folk” didn’t have their own copies of God’s Word until a new technology called the printing press came along.
Now, we have TVs, DVD players, live-streaming devices, electronic tablets, smartphones, mp3 players, etc. That’s a lot of teaching tools for a guy who grew up in the 8-Track era! Nonetheless, I have embraced technology at church.
Here are some ways we can leverage today’s technology with preschoolers:
1. Use electronic tablets or smartphones for a transition activity.
This is not time to play Minecraft®. Use one of Lifeway’s family apps or another Bible-related app to help reluctant preschoolers engage in Bible learning. Sit with the child and engage her in conversation as she plays.
2. Employ free or low-cost apps for classroom management.
One of the best ways to help preschoolers take turns doing favorite tasks is to use a name selector app. The app randomly selects a child’s name, and you avoid temper tantrums. Also, there are fun apps for countdowns and time clocks that can be used these to help preschoolers know when it’s time to cleanup.
3. Show 3-5 minute realistic videos to introduce or review the Bible story or life application.
I always hold up my Bible and remind preschoolers that Bible stories and truths come from the Bible, even if we hear them from someone on a TV.
4. Set up a pretend computer in the room.
Make a computer screen out of a cardboard box and attach an old keyboard and mouse. Place sheet protectors on the box so that you can slip in Bible words. Even high-tech kids enjoying imitating adults by playing on pretend devices.
5. Play music on a CD player or mp3 device with external speakers.
Play Bible-related music throughout the session while preschoolers participate in Bible-learning activities. During group time, invite the preschoolers to sing songs and move to the music.
6. Guide preschoolers to sing along to Bible-related music videos.
Even non-readers enjoy seeing words with moving backgrounds or people doing simple motions on the TV screen.
You don’t have to be high-tech to use technology with preschoolers. Begin with something simple, like a CD player, and slowly add additional technology. Remember, technological devices should be used only as teaching tools that enable personal conversation between teachers and preschoolers. So have fun and teach kids about Jesus, using the technology available to you.
Landry Holmes is Manager of Kids Ministry Publishing, Lifeway Christian Resources. He teaches preschoolers and elementary kids at his church in Middle Tennessee. Landry and his wife Janetta are the parents of two adult sons and a beautiful daughter-in-law. When they’re not working or at church, they’re entertaining their rat terrier Ranger (named after the Texas Rangers baseball team).