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The Bible and the Brain

Research shows that reading to children is important for things like brain development, socialization, and literacy—even “soft” skills like empathy. That’s why we encourage reading the Bible to your children until they are old enough to begin to do so on their own.

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Prodigious advances in technology have revolutionized the field of neuroscience, allowing us unprecedented access to information on the brain’s inner workings. The New York Times has declared the next frontier in science as, “inside your brain”![1]

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Knowing how children’s brains process and store information gives us critical insight on how to help them experience and retain spiritual truths and biblical principles that will deepen their relationship with Christ.

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Here’s a snapshot of how the brain receives and stores information:

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The Bible and the Brain | Experience the Story

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Rote memorization helps lodge information in your short-term memory. But if it is not repeated or attached to prior knowledge—such as associating the new information with a catchy song or important memory—it will quickly be flushed from your brain’s short-term storage any time a new and “more important” piece of information is encountered.

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Getting new information into long-term memory takes work. A good strategy is to connect the information to an additional activity:

  • Using a question and answer format
  • Engaging in a discussion
  • Relating topics to real life situations
  • Role playing or actual application

The more ways something is learned, the more memory pathways are built.[2]

When the brain perceives information repeated in multiple ways, there is a priming process that makes encoding of that information more efficient. That is why writing a vocabulary word in a sentence, hearing classmates read their sentences, and then following the direction to use the word in conversation during that day will result in more successful long-term memory storage and retrieval than just memorizing the definition (Koutstaal et al., 1997).

In other words, the more often information is repeated, revisited, and experienced in multiple ways, the more deeply embedded it becomes.

So what does this have to do with us?

Here at OneHope, we are always searching for effective mediums and ways to communicate the truths of God’s Word to children. It’s our job to instill a deep faith in the next generation. We’re not psychologists or neuroscientists, but we do our best to understand how effective learning takes place so we can leverage those principles in our ministry work.

Ultimately, we trust the Holy Spirit to make the profound truth of the Scripture come alive and move children from simply learning basic Christian doctrine to a deeper understanding and heart knowledge for how to live.


[1] http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2014/12/31/brain-research-2014_n_6334088.html
[2] http://www.ascd.org/publications/books/107006/chapters/Memory,_Learning,_and_Test-Taking_Success.aspx

Reading to Kids Increases Their Intelligence

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Research Finds: Reading Bible to Kids can Increase their Intelligence, Social skills, & More! Here’s Why & How!

Most Christians believe that reading the Bible is “good for them.” Yet so many people still struggle getting “into it.” And if you struggle, don’t sweat it! I just wrote a blog last week on how to “get addicted” to Bible reading. But did you know that you can increase your child or grandchild’s intelligence, empathy, social skills and coping skills by simply reading the Bible with them? AND, this can be fun too! (I realize, it sounds too good to be true). But by the end of this blog, I want to show you 3 simple ways to birth a desire in your kids’ hearts for God’s Word – not to mention score a few parenting points.

(1). Don’t Fight Technology: Use it! One of the most common questions I hear from parents is this: “How do you deal with technology?” Obviously, families need to be smarter than ever when it comes to video-games, internet use, and social media. Ninety percent of kids today (ages 8 to 16 years old) have viewed porn online. 1  Even worse, following first exposure, the largest consumer group of internet pornography is boys between the ages of 12-17! (2).

Keep in mind, exposure to porn directly increases a child’s likelihood of depression, violence, sexual discontentment, eating disorders, anger, and dissatisfaction with future partners. [Heres another blog on this].  Even worse, Porn saturates far more kid-oriented social media than ever before. To make technology more complicated, research shows that the average 8-18 year old spends an average of 7 hours and 38 minutes using entertainment media on a typical day (more than 53 hours a week) (3).  It’s estimated that preschoolers spend an average of at least 2.2 hours to as much as 4.6 hours per day looking at a screen.

A lot of parents try to fight it by simply forbidding it or limiting it. But unless your plan is to become Amish, at some point, your strategy is going to need a change. Technology is everywhere. Thankfully, I realized early on that a strategy of techno-denial wasn’t going to bode well with my three kids (especially when I discovered my 11-year old already had over 3000 instagram followers). So I quickly learned: If I want to be an effective parent of my three kids, I need to embrace the heck out of it.

For example, we actually created rules like: No one plays video games alone for longer than 30 minutes/day. Did I want to play every single Lego videogame ever created? No! But I had hundreds of parenting moments when I did. Did I want to learn the intricacies of Clash of Clans or Minecraft? No. But after we rebuilt our own Mindcraft model of Venice… which my son accidentally deleted… I had a sequence of Fathering moments that my kids will never forget. In the end, research ironically shows that the “social isolation” of technology causes far more negative outcomes than exposure to violence. So when parents “lean in” to their kids technological interests, you’ll actually find a world of incredible parenting moments.

Even better, there are organizations that are cleverly learning how to use technology for scripture engagement. For example, the amazing missions organization OneHope has been brilliantly studying kids for years – tirelessly creating tools like the Bible App for Kids – (which, by the way, in just 2 years, this app has surpassed over 8 million downloads in every country of the world). So be aware of stuff like this! My son has gotten hooked on the Bible App for hours! & trust me: I’m not complaining about his “time on technology” when he’s learning the Bible. But here’s a few other ways to parent our kids while birthing a deeper desire for the Bible:

(2). Create a Bedtime Ritual with Reading: For those who know Carolyn and me, we try to log at least 30-90 minutes with each of our kids every school night. I am NOT a fan of any extra-curriculars that decrease family time. So, we spend most evenings either reading with our kids (when they were younger) or simply flopping on their beds watching Youtube videos or other nonsense. In the end, it usually takes an hour of nonsense to earn 10 minutes of good parenting time.
But here’s why: Research shows that reading with our kids produces a huge number of positive child-outcomes: Beyond the common sense benefits of reading with our kids, studies show, when we read to our kids, it increases intelligence, social skills, empathy and coping skills. Besides, leaders are readers. (I realize that I’m preaching to the choir here : )
Interestingly, OneHope (who co-created the Bible App for Kids) found that, “parents still prefer print copies of the book for their children.” According to Digital Book World and literacy nonprofit Sesame Workshop, less than 10% of kids and parents alike choose ebooks over print books. So, despite the wild success of OneHope’s app: The reality is that there are no apps that can replace our laps. Kids love to interact with their parents. So make sure you’re doing it.


AI_Image-01(3). Use Resources like “The Bible App for Kids Storybook Bible
” – My nine-year old son has literally devoured the print version of this. If you don’t have a good Bible for your youngsters, just go ahead an get this. In fact, my son will even start reading it even before we get to his bedroom.
Of course, if your kids are older, mix it up with spiritual growth books that appeal to their curiosity. Our teenaged girls loved reading “Heaven is for Real.” And when they got sick of the classic “Sunday School Bible stories,” I loved reading some of the Rated R stories to them. Try reading the book of Judges with your teenagers sometime. WOW. Interesting convos!EXPERIENCE THE STORY

To help make studying God’s Word together as a family awesome, our friends at OneHope also created Experience the Story. It’s a family devotional that’s a companion to the Bible App for Kids. The devotional pairs five character traits with corresponding Bible stories, and is 66 full-color pages of fun, interactive activities designed for both older and younger children!BUTTON-02

But here’s my point: Don’t be passive about the Bible or technology with your kids. There is no school, app, or church program that could ever be a substitute for good parenting. But, if you use these tools well, your whole family will feel a deeper passion for God and his word.


PeterPeter Haas and his wife, Carolyn are the lead pastors of Substance Church in Minneapolis, MN.  Peter also speaks to church planters and pastors all over the globe as he serves on the lead team of the Association of Related Churches. He is the author of two books: Pharisectomy: how to remove your inner Pharisee and other religiously transmitted diseases, and Broken Escalators: funny & frightful lessons about moth eating and moving to the next level. Beyond family & church, his next greatest passions are music, film & comedy. Playing just about every instrument from cello to electric guitar, Peter spends most of his free time in his recording studio spinning EDM on his turntables or scoring classical film soundtracks. Peter currently resides in Minneapolis with his wife Carolyn and their three kids. Visit peterhaas.org or substancechurch.com to download books, sermons & other free resources. You may also follow him on twitter and instagram at: peterhaas1.

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Citations:

1. Most of these exposures happened while doing homework – Dr. Douglass Weiss, PhD., Clean: A Proven Plan for Men Committed to Sexual Integrity: Thomas Nelson, 2013; (pg. 17).

2. Cited on http://stoppornculture.org/about/about-the-issue/facts-and-figures-2/

3.  http://kff.org/other/event/generation-m2-media-in-the-lives-of/)

 

Face time

Being a parent can be depleting and exhausting at times—most of the time during some seasons of parenthood. I often need a reminder to be confident that our God keeps His face turned toward us.

My daughter loves to have me read in her bed with her. This has been true since Maddie got her first “big girl” bed when she was 4. Now that she’s 15, I read my own book and she reads hers, but one thing has always been true: we have to lie face to face. She hates it when I get tired of laying the same way and want to turn over. She has two reasons. First, she likes me to face her if she needs to tell me something. Second, she hates the way it “feels” when I have my back towards her.

God’s perfect love means He always makes His face available to me—access if I need to talk or just need the “feeling” of knowing He is present.

Sometimes I try to covertly turn away, thinking Maddie is so absorbed in what she is doing that she won’t notice. It never works. She always says, “No, turn your face to me.” When she says that, it melts my heart and no matter how much my back aches, I turn my face to hers.

My daughter is able to express to me what I am sometimes unable to express to God. I don’t always do a good job acknowledging that I need to see God’s face. Sometimes, it’s worse than that. I think I’ve got things under control in my life and I’m the one turning away. Still God waits with His face toward me.

Evidence of God’s face-to-face orientation to us is Jesus. God sent Jesus into the darkness to be our light. We may turn away from God, but He had a plan from the beginning to be able to keep His face turned toward us.

Here are some application ideas of this biblical concept for families in any stage:

Couple

God is eternal, like the circle of your wedding band. I have a habit of turning my band around and around on my finger. Maybe you have a similar habit or maybe just the visual cue of your wedding band can remind you of our eternal God’s face being turned toward you today. In the craziness of life it can be easy to forget this simple truth. It can also be easy to be turned in opposite directions as a couple. Do you need to turn toward your spouse or do you need to ask for them to turn towards you?

Family with kids in early elementary

If you read with your kids today, lie face to face. Talk with them about how it feels to be facing each other and how it feels when one of you turns their back to the other. Even though it is difficult for a child to understand that God doesn’t have a literal face, make the connection that God is always turned toward us. He is always present and available to your family.

Family with kids in late elementary

During this stage of family life it can feel like you are shifting to more of a sideline observer than participant with your kids. Often this is quite literal-you watch them play a sport or instrument from the sidelines instead of actually playing with them. If watching has replaced being with for you and your kids, think about moments you can create face-to-face time. Consider face-to-face rather than shoulder-to-shoulder in the car.  Even if it is brief, a few minutes at breakfast or bedtime; create space for looking into each other’s eyes. The value that communicates to your kids is huge.

Family with teenagers

It is a bit ironic that we have technology like FaceTime and Facebook, but our actual face-to-face time with family can be challenging to find. Ask each other how you are doing with face-to-face connections. Maybe technology has been helpful in connecting your family, or maybe it’s been a distraction. Talk about the pros and cons of connecting through technology. Try creating space today or soon to have a conversation about how your family can be intentional about getting some face-to-face time with each other. It won’t happen if you don’t make a plan.


005-L_BohnLisa Bohn serves as the Parent Engagement Specialist on the New Ministries team at Awana®. Fueled by a strong leadership background, personal ministry and parenting experience, Lisa has a strategic passion to come alongside families in the adventure of parenting and following Christ as a family. She and her husband Kenton have two teenagers, Ian and Maddie, and live in the northwest suburbs of Chicago. Follow Lisa @lisabohn3 on the Awana blog awana.org/blog.