The Strategic Role of www.hikidz.org in Internet Child Evangelism

At the 2004 Lausanne Forum in Thailand, the Lausanne Committee for World Evangelization rated the http://www.hikidz.org/ children’s website as one of the four most strategic tools to communicate the gospel to the world’s two billion children over the next ten years.

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According to the Barna Group, individuals are five times more likely to come to Christ before the age of fourteen than at any other time in their life.1 They are also more likely to discover their gifts and calling in their youth, be stronger in their walk with God and better assimilate Christian values into their daily lives. As many leaders have proved, to change a nation we must start with the children.

Children are by far the most strategic and responsive to the gospel. Most, however, are far outside the walls of our churches. They are also the most seriously neglected in terms of using the church’s resources and time spent discipling. All children deserve the opportunity to hear the good news wherever they are and in whatever language they speak.

Research in the United States, Australia and the United Kingdom also shows that children are now spending more time on the Internet than adults.

Whether we like it or not, the Internet is rapidly becoming the key communication channel. Even if we are appalled by some of its contents, the Internet can indeed be a channel of blessing. At no other time in history could countless millions be reached every second of the day as is possible today through the Internet.

It is also important to note that twenty-first century children:

  • develop skills rapidly and are increasingly the ones who guide their parents and grandparents in using modern technologies

  • are becoming the influencers and deciders in our consumer society and are targeted by companies using all kinds of media to get their message across
  • are increasingly left alone by over-occupied parents to be informed, distracted and amused by modern media tools such as television, video games and the Internet
  • are the focus of a United Nations sponsorship campaign to supply $100 laptops with Internet access to children in developing countries

As Christians, we need to take a leading role in our society and the media to positively influence the culture and fulfill the Great Commission. However, to reach even more of today’s children in a way that will engage them at a greater level, they need new, innovative and appropriate means of communication.

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HiKidz.org includes both games and
presentations of the gospel message.
 

Hi Kidz Purpose and Mission
The website seeks to provide children with a safe world of fun, entertainment, information and interactivity. Woven into these goals are opportunities to discover both Christianity and a holistic Christian worldview that touches every area of life. The children are encouraged to respond personally to God’s love and call on their lives. A weekly Cyber Mag is sent out as a free animated email in English or French to all who register on the site. Other regular emails are also envisioned for teens, parents, teachers and children’s workers.

The Hi Kidz website presents an exciting opportunity for a children’s Internet site and represents the collaborative work of Christian ministries to reach today’s generation in a relevant and engaging way. The site was initially developed in French by the Swiss children’s ministry, Grain de Blé. In the UK, the English version has become a collaboration of fourteen organizations, including Agape, Crusaders, Scripture Union, the International Bible Society and Viva Network. For such a site to be effective across countries and languages, many ministries and the wider global Church need to share in this project together.

Until now, the low budget Hi Kidz pilot version (with limited content in English and French) has received more than 300,000 visits from over one hundred countries across five continents, with an average of seven pages viewed per visit. All this has happened without any major publicity campaign. The current Hi Kidz site is still just a pilot version.

The Future of Hi Kidz
What started as a collaboration of different ministries investing in a united project will become the heart of a very new Hi Kidz website on an international scale. However, in order to offer children’s ministries all over the world, it is imperative that we work together in a spirit of dynamic collaboration and not one of defensive competition.

In 2005, Grain de Blé commissioned Esterheart Ministries to restructure and redesign the current pilot site. The overall strategy is to develop a multilingual site that can compete with the appeal and quality of the best secular sites. Once a worldwide partnership of major children’s ministries is in place, networks of collaborating children’s ministries will be able to manage the site on a local/linguistic level. This will also enable these networks to provide content that is adapted to the children’s needs and culture. It will also allow the networks and local churches to effectively incorporate the site into individual strategies and action plans at every level.

The restructuring will build on the strengths and experience of the pilot version. It will be upgraded according to Esterheart’s six-month study which has included findings from both secular organizations dealing with children’s websites and several Lausanne reports regarding children.

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The HiKidz.org site is interactive.

The new Hi Kidz site will be presented in a 3-D environment and offer entertainment and education communicating Christianity at two levels. First, we will introduce the child to the universe of God’s creation and our responsibility as stewards. Second, we will introduce them to the creator himself and how to grow in relationship with him through Jesus Christ. Hopefully this will enable every child, parent and guardian to appreciate the website with a low-entry threshold and acquire trust to accept the pertinence of the website’s holistic approach to knowing God.

The site is designed to not only touch children, but entire families. It can be integrated into church efforts to reach their community and nation and can be a very versatile tool for evangelism, discipleship, cross-cultural mission and church planting.

You may ask if the Internet is in danger of isolating children from their natural social environment. Hi Kidz has acknowledged this risk and is seeking to develop online content with off-line action. The website will inspire the child to do activities with friends or family. It will also publicize local Christian activities and events. We can easily imagine that Internet child evangelism will develop into an expertise that will challenge our existing ministries to approach their mission in a more professional way. Let us remind ourselves that children have changed a lot in the last decades, with media and entertainment being one of the major causes. Hopefully the Christian community can progress in offering child-friendly content on the Internet.

For the moment, Esterheart Ministries is engaged in a worldwide campaign for consolidating partnerships and funds in order to realize Grain de Blé’s wish to offer every nation a multilingual tool to evangelize children without needing to carry the financial weight at a local level. Investing in this site is investing in tomorrow’s leaders. Today’s children will shape tomorrow’s society. If we want Christian values to drive their judgment, we need to connect with them where they are connected.

Every stage of the project has brought its challenges and struggles. It is imperative to pray for the children, for this strategic project and for the people of God to join forces and support it in whatever way God inspires them.

Endnote
1. Barna, George. 2003. Transforming Children into Spiritual Champions. Ventura,
California: Regal.


Harry Bryans is the pioneer developer and webmaster of www.hikidz.org. Bryans is originally from North Ireland but served as missionary in Belgium for twenty-two years. He worked for fifteen years with the Grain de Ble European children's ministry and helped launch the Hi Kidz telephone ministry in a dozen countries on three continents.