Everyone has a ‘wow’ moment. For Ben Jones, founder and CEO of charity Missional Generation (MG), it was a conversation with a 17-year-old wannabe YouTuber named Vlad.
“Generation Z alone can spend around 10 hours a day on media platforms*,” says Ben. “Back in the old days, you’d have a kick around with the kids in the park and ask them to come along to a youth group. Now you’ve got to engage digitally. We’re teaching youth leaders how to harness smartphones as a new form of detached youth work.”
And that’s where Vlad comes in. His dad, Andy, a Christian game developer, helped Ben build the first MG resource app and the first ever virtual reality experience based on the Resurrection. After two days of brainstorming, it was Vlad who had the idea for a digital and immersive AR (Augmented Reality) app on David and Goliath to help a new generation use their skills and talents to help overcome personal, local and global Goliaths in the world. Youth leaders are using the free app to reach out to young people through their smartphones. (You can find out more about Vlad by scanning the photo of him on page 15.)
With Vlad’s input, Ben knew he was on to a winner. “Once his app was launched, I saw some young people playing it in a car park in Leeds and talking about it. That’s when you know you’ve reached your target audience.”
Some truly amazing stats have been generated from MG’s visits to local schools. “We interviewed 176 young people after they’d seen the story of the Resurrection in VR (Virtual Reality) in a prayer space. We asked them if they’d go to a local church with immersive and interactive teaching. 126 said they would! We need to open up conversations about the use of technology. You could say that AR and VR are gimmicks, but so is using real donkeys in nativities. The church hasn’t kept up with technology and that’s where it’s vital for us to do things differently.”
VR and AR apps are attractive and inexpensive youth work resources. “Nearly every young person has a smartphone so the technology is there, ready and waiting. We offer all of our apps for free on the App Store and you can get an MG VR headset for £5. They bring Bible stories to life for young people, using an immersive digital medium. They can fight Goliath using flicking, just like they do in Pokémon Go. They can watch the story of the Resurrection and bring the Advent story alive using their 12 Revelations of Christmas Augmented Reality app. We offer training in VR and AR and help leaders explore the ways they can use it in their youth groups.”
Recently, Vlad accompanied Ben and Andy to the Premier Digital Awards where they were nominated for Best Use of Digital Media in Youth Work 2018. Vlad’s very encouraged. With immersive and digital technology engaging the next generation, it’s time to reach out through a different platform.
To learn more, visit Missional Generation