In the last year, Scripture Union Cymru has launched a Welsh language version of our app Guardians of Ancora, called Arwyr Ancora. This is a Bible-based app, centred on a platform-style video game in which children explore and observe Bible stories using free running. The game is great fun and helps introduce the stories of the Bible in a fun and relevant way to children who may not have been familiar with them before. The app also includes several other features including quizzes, daily Bible readings with questions for reflection, a video reel of Bible stories and even a mini-game that acts as a reward for children who engage with other features of the game.
Since we see this app as a core part of Scripture Union’s mission to reach the 95% of children and young people not currently in church, we have made the app completely free. There are no advertisements and no extra purchases.
The most exciting thing about introducing the app to children is that a high percentage of them that play the game at an event go on to download the app and continue engaging with the Bible through it when they are at home. One encouraging example of this was a boy who attended one of our Beach Missions and was introduced to the app. He went home, downloaded it and began immersing himself in the Bible. Although his parents were not Christians, he got more and more engaged with it. His grandmother, who is a Christian, told us that when she went round town with him, he was stopping people and asking them what their favourite Bible story was! We have also heard of young people becoming Christians through engaging with the app.
Introducing children to the app
How do we introduce children to the app? I am going to share a few things that have worked for us as a team in Wales.
Ancora stand at a community event
We have taken ‘Ancora stands’ to various events — from school or church fetes to the Urdd and National Eisteddfods. At its simplest we just let children play with the app on our many tablets and give away cards with information about how they can get the app. This is always very popular! We also find it is a great way to chat with kids and engage with them as we help them get started with the game and talk about it with them.
In the Urdd Eisteddfod, we also ran a competition to win a tablet. To enter, children had to play the level ‘Jesus and the Fishermen’ and complete the quiz that relates to it, showing us the score they had achieved. The quiz scores them by speed as well as by accuracy of answers, so there were a wide variety of scores and got children to engage a little deeper with the app and pay more attention to the story. You could run a variation of this where you give smaller prizes based on the number of points achieved.
Ancora school lunchtime club
Mike, our schools’ worker for Mid and West Wales, shares his experience of running a school lunchtime club.
It was my pleasure to try Guardians of Ancora in a school in Llanelli, South Wales. It was a great success. The game was played with excitement and led to questions such as, ‘Do you believe in God sir?’ I answered, ‘Yes I do, do you?’ Further discussion was had about faith, and we were able to play a game showing what faith is in reality.
This game is a great resource to start talking to children between the ages of 7-11 about Jesus and his work. If you are interested, let us know or download the ‘Running a Guardians of Ancora Club in Schools’ from the Scripture Union website.
Ancora in ‘pop-up’ mission
Helen Franklin, our Church and Community worker has been running ‘pop-up missions’ for several years. These are small missions run with a local church in a public space such as a park or beach. They always involve a Bible story and conversation, but other activities include games, craft and a lot of chatting. Helen says, ‘When the rain arrived and we couldn’t be outside, instead of telling the children the Bible story we had prepared, they excitedly worked their way through the Bible Quest of ‘Jesus and the Fishermen’ on our tablets and discovered that Jesus wants people to follow him. When it was time to go home, the children left, enthusiastic to download the app and play some more. And we went home too, happy in the knowledge that Guardians of Ancora allows them to interact more with God’s Word.’
I recently had the privilege of helping pilot an Ancora RE curriculum based on the themes of Faith and Identity. It was a real joy to go into a lesson and hear kids say, ‘YES,’ as they were excited to play the game and have the lesson! It was even more thrilling to hear children who had looked blankly when I asked what ‘Faith’ was at the beginning of the lesson give me a well-rounded explanation at the end! The resource for school lessons is not on general release yet as we are still reviewing it but if you think it would be useful in your school, please get in touch with one of our team in Wales, and we will help you in any way we can.
Holiday Bible club
Scripture Union have prepared two holiday club resources that work alongside Guardians of Ancora. The second of these, Treasure Seekers of Ancora, is also available in Welsh. Both go through various events in Jesus’ life.
If a week-long holiday club seems too much for your church to manage, I would encourage you to consider doing a couple of one- or two-day holiday clubs spread throughout the year. Perhaps you could do the Christmas story on a Saturday in the run-up to Christmas, the Easter story during the Easter holidays, and maybe the Lord’s Prayer in the summer. This means you still get the benefit of engaging with children and young people without the time commitment of a week for volunteers.
These are just a few ideas that you could use. We hope that some of them will be helpful to your church as you look to engage with children and young people in your community. If you would like any help from the Scripture Union Cymru team, please contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org