I’m very busy getting ready for a children’s event next week. It is the children’s work at a large Christian Conference in Scotland which we’ve been involved with for the past four years. The first year Jenny took a band into the children’s work and as I usually work with her I went along to provide some visuals. The following year Jenny was in the team who took on the children’s work for all primary children and again I got involved.
At the time we had to go to a considerable effort to convince the organizers that the children’s work (the way we were doing it) needed two additional tech’s and a pile of video gear – even though we were really doing it on the cheap as much as possible. Anyway, in a couple of days we pack the van again and head off to do it again. I thought I would have a look back at the notes I made back in 2006 after the first time we aimed to fully integrate a visual ministry with the children’s work. The following is what I wrote then, a lot of it we have learned to do better and I will try to write up some of what we do next week and hope to see what if anything is different.
this is a sort of summary of some of the uses of video that we made at CLAN Kidz 2006
Our theme was HEART or the Father Heart of God, or how God loves us as Father, or something along those lines. We planned to have a VoxPop video put together for each morning session asking people what they thought the word for that day meant. To get something ready we filmed the first one using the team at one of the training sessions. The rest were done at CLAN using a mobile camera with interviewer and to get people’s attention and make sure people knew that the Kidz team were on site, we mounted a camera to a large fluffy heart (can’t believe that I have no pics of this).
So, 6 voxpops to lead off discussion of ‘Holy’, ‘Eternal’, ‘Abba (daddy) ’, ‘Ruler’, ‘Truth’ and a final sumary one with clips from the others… of course as we were at a Christian conference people kept giving us the ‘right answer’ so ‘Abba’ does actually mean father or daddy to Christians and not the 70s super group!
These seemed to work, but I don’t know how or if you could measure the effectiveness of this sort of element in a program.
For the evening sessions where we were looking at ‘Humble’, ‘Enjoy’, ‘Adore’, ‘Respect’, ‘Trust’ we had already filmed a series of sketches with Alistair, Bruce and Andrea playing the parts in a spoof ‘heart surgery’ soap. This involved a few jokes before the Doctor found and removed from the heart things like ‘Pride’ (opposed to Humble), ‘Distrust’ (opposed to Trust), etc.
Again there was no way of knowing how this would go down with this age group (although we kept laughing at it). On the first couple of days, they just sat and watched, then turned to hear what would be said next… by the third or fourth day as the episode started they were singing along with the theme tune, cheering for “Dr Vain” and for some reason booing “Nurse Heart” – who was the only actor from the sketch who was actually there.
Other visual ideas that worked well were
- Live Camera – sparing use of live camera for games happening up front (how long can you hold a fruit pastel in your mouth without chewing was good because while other things went on I had close ups of the children’s mouths and folk shouted if they were chewing or not).
- Branding, I had made a series of video titles of the words ‘CLAN kidz’ with different animated fonts so that we could brand and give ownership to the venue.
- Voxpops needs another mention – the first one was entirely team members
a) this meant I could film it at one of your preparation meetings,
b) it helped introduce team members to the children on day one, and
c) it helped me meet team members and them get used to the idea that I would be very likely to shove a camera in their face (and also for me to find out who really didn’t like that and try to avoid doing it to them).Also, while at CLAN we used a large pink fluff heart shape strapped onto a mono-pod with the camera sticking through it to run around and get people’s attention – this combined with our team T-shirts let the general CLAN delegate who might not think anything about children’s work going on see that something was happening and hopefully pray for the children! It also saved any ‘what is this going to be used for’ moments.
- Team Wall – I’m not sure about this. I came up with the idea (more difficult to explain than to see) of having all the team members images in a 5 by 4 table on screen, but instead of still images each would be a video, some being more animated than others – giving a wall of moving and changing images. It was a little bit of a fiddle to make, but not as hard as I thought and a learning process, but I’m not sure what it added to the venue/events.
- Story time – for each children’s story we took photos of the picture books, powerpointed them and followed along in the story. Simple but essential to hold attention.
- Drew’s daddy video – a ‘one off’ video that I will certainly use again and again. Drew was one of the leaders and was there with his three children, so we spent 15 minutes filming them running to him jumping on him or being swung around as well as hugs, and sitting to read with daddy. You can’t go wrong with footage like this – lots of slow motion and gradual fades and make it fit to a suitable backing track. Guaranteed tear jerker.
- Testimony – while doing our best to avoid filming children because of all the legal / permission problems. I suddenly realized that during our team meetings at the end of the day I should film people’s stories from the day of what God was doing in and through the children. It remains to be seen what can be done with this footage and it might be good to find a way of feeding it back to the adults session during the week if we do this in future years.
- Nothing – worth mentioning that when you want the children to listen or focus on one thing, showing nothing i.e. blanking all the screens, helps a lot. It is difficult for us at the back to keep that in mind when most of the time our focus is on getting things happening on the screens.
Basically, while I know that visuals (video and stills) add a lot to worship and teaching for adults, this is even more the case for children who are more used to lots of things happening around them. Who respond to visual stimuli that backs up spoken word or experience.