GRAYSLAKE, ILL. -- Dan Huffman, the pastor of children's ministries at The Chapel, a nondenominational church in Grayslake, Ill., uses high technology and other computer related equipment to attract children to biblical teachings. The ministers rely on tools such as PowerPoint, videos, rock music and interactive exercises to make their lessons relevant to kids.
"The messages don't change, but the methods do," said Dale Hudson, children's minister at First Baptist Church of Springdale, Ark. "Churches can't teach in the way they did in the 1950s or '60s."
Hudson observed the problem that the church is facing in connecting with children and the first solution he came up with was to adopt a new worship program following “Nickelodeon style” that incorporates high-energy, games, various visual devices with music and with a help of a professional designer, he completely transformed the environment into a place where children could enjoy. "You have to let kids be kids," he said. "We make church a fun, exciting place," he said.
Huffman from The Chapel runs a program called The Great Adventure, operates in a theater-in-the-round at the local high school, which serves about 400 children in two sessions every Sunday. He said the move from a classroom to the theater meant he could do more elaborate teaching.
Keeping in mind of ‘Sesame Street,’ he wanted to create a fun and fast environment that could receive attention from children at the most. His 45-minue lesson has no moment of rest – it moves at an extremely fast pace full of interactive activities relating to worship and Bible study that require children’s participation.
Although 99 percent of the people love the changes, Hudson said, some critics complain about the new program saying the methods emphasize entertainment over education. In response to that Huffman said just as people make Gummi Bear vitamins to attract children, the new youth ministry programs teach God’s word in the most digestible way. He emphasized the importance of making children to enjoy the lessons.
"Why do they make Gummi Bear vitamins these days?" Huffman said. "Critics say you're just making them attractive to kids. Well, yeah -- the end result is they're getting their vitamins."
The Chapel and First Baptist are expanding with new facilities. The Chapel, in particular, is anticipating to turn the children’s facilities into a place like Disney World this spring.