Has Faith-Based Animation Been Left Behind?
Unlike any other time in the past, Christian movies have begun to penetrate the film market in a vibrant way. Christian adults are more and more excited to see faith-based content that speaks to them, not just emotionally, or entertainingly, but also spiritually. Content that encourages them to live their lives better. I applaud this. We have the essential message to share, but for too long, we have not been creative enough to tell it in a way that engages others.
Our Kids Are Missing Out
So, while I am grateful to see a renaissance in faith-based movies for adults, I am discouraged by the lack of high-quality animated content for kids. Specifically, where are the Christian “Pixars” and “Dreamworks” of the world? Is it because we have nothing to say in this arena? Do we lack the content that will engage kids in such a way that they are entertained while also feeling empowered by God to act more positively? Surely not!!
I understand all the arguments; animation is expensive, it’s difficult, it takes so much extra time. But are any of those reasons too big for the God we serve to overcome? Can He not provide for us what is needed to engage children and families with such an important medium? I believe He can. In fact, I believe it so much that I ventured out from 25 years of church work in Children’s ministry to form an animation production company. A company that will make a difference by providing animated content infused with God’s power. Content that will inspire kids, through the power of the Holy Spirit, to become leaders and influencers for Christ in this world. As Christians, we are way behind in this, and we need to catch up fast. There are so many stories out there yet to be written within this medium that will inspire kids; stories that are funny, touching, happy, even sad. But most importantly, stories that take a child on a journey that motivates them to be better than they were before they watched it.
Using Animation to Teach the Bible
But this truth doesn’t just apply to movies or cartoon features; it applies to how we teach our children in the church. God led me 15 years ago to begin using animation to tell the truths of the Bible through a curriculum called Elevate. Over those years, I was always amazed at the impact animation had in capturing a child’s attention. But even more important, as I watched those children grow, I was excited to see how the truth revealed within those animated stories made an impact in their lives. It was an impact that most other communication styles did not make.
Why does animation do this? Because if you genuinely captivate a child’s attention and then present that child with God’s plan and power, you cannot lose. God’s Word, poured into an attentive child’s heart, will not come back void as they grow. I know, because I’ve seen it. As Christian educators, we must pursue the potential of using animated curriculum in the future, which is another reason we started our animation company. We must continuously press forward, using the latest technology, to present God’s Word through this medium kids love. It’s powerful, it’s captivating, it’s engaging, and with God’s powerful message, it’s life-changing.
What Can I Do?
Soon, as technology advances, the excuses for not producing animated content will become fewer and fewer. When that happens, only those who provide great stories with valuable content will succeed. As Christians, we have the content. We have the message. We have the GOD-given creativity to tell great stories. We need to do it. We must recognize within our churches the young animators and storytellers whom God has given the talent to craft creative messages that communicate the love and hope of Christ. We must step up and give them our attention. We need to encourage them with our actions by providing them with the resources and technology to learn and develop their skills. We also need to be on the lookout for companies who are striving to use faith-based animation to communicate God’s love. And, when we find them, we need to support them by asking them, “What can I do to help?”
Mike Johnson is the Producer of I See It! Productions and their new Holiday Curriculum called That’s a Wrap! You can learn more about his work in kids ministry and animation production at MikeJohnsonsBlog.com. Mike was invited to contribute this article to Sunday School Zone because we believe in the long-term need to foster creativity in Christians and companies that want their efforts to honor Christ. I See It! Productions is one of our valued advertisers who share our vision to help the church teach His story to successive generations.