If you haven’t read the prior articles in this series, it might be helpful to review to give you some context. This is a continuation flushing out the E.P.I.C. generation acronym. (Experiential, Participatory, Image-rich, Connected). The goal is to be intentional with the time we spend with students (or anyone for that matter) so we can maximize the impact we have in their lives. How we spend our time with emerging adults is critical; we can’t “wing it” and hope for the best or repeat ineffective methods just because “that’s how we’ve always done it.” Jesus was an EPIC teacher and highly intentional, maybe as you read this you’ll recall some ways He engaged His disciples in image rich teaching.
I – Image Rich
An article from INC. Magazine recently stated “Verbal intelligence is dropping, Visual intelligence is rising.” The emerging generations are saturated with phones & tablets in hand and TVs in every room. They grew up on MTV, YouTube, Instagram, Snapchat, and graphic design galore. It’s been said, “Images are the language of the 21st century, not words.” If you’re trying to teach something without an associated picture, movie clip, mental image (story), or tangible item you’re likely not engaging the next generation deeply. Infographics are the mandate of today’s marketing gurus. Brand management & marketing firm WebDAM research states “Social media posts with images produce 650% higher engagement than text only.” (WebDAM infographic below).
The organization Growing Leaders focuses on millennial and Gen Z development. They produce and widely use a content called HABITUDES (images that form leadership habits); I highly recommend picking up a copy of any of their Habitude books to give you some great ideas on how to create your own and/or use theirs. It’s amazingly simple, yet profound. As teachers and preachers, this image rich growth step may be the missing link that moves you from transaction to transformation in those you disciple.
Find images/pictures that represent the lesson you’re trying to teach or value you’re trying to convey. Scripture and Jesus specifically, was masterful with these – shepherds/sheep, trees/fruit, soils, birds of the air, rocks/stones, water/springs, etc. Follow His lead and integrate images into your time somehow, i.e. bring a toy of a sheep, have a screen with a Shepherd image, eat an apple while you explain fruit, seeds, kingdom. There are so many ways to create image rich communication and stories count. When you tell a story it creates an internal image, so tell them well and put time into creating mental imagery if you don’t have a physical “prop.”
Opportunities for Parents:
For teens specifically, use images from their lives to explain life and spiritual realities. It could be a piece of sports equipment at home or a poster on their wall or whatever, but use things around their lives and attach values and lessons to them. Example: Your son is struggling with a decision about a friend group he really doesn’t fit in with. Grab his helmet/glove/whatever. Every athlete knows that when equipment doesn’t fit right it creates blisters, inhibits performance, and totally bums them out. In life, relationships are like pieces of our equipment in the “game of life” and when we’re squeezing into something that doesn’t fit, it’s only going to blister up, create discomfort for us and have us frustrated we aren’t where we hoped to be. (You can probably come up with better ones than that, get creative!)
Opportunities for Small Groups or Missional Communities:
Do a night together where everyone brings a “treasure” and explains why it is significant in their life. After everyone has shared, read Jesus’ reflections together on “where your treasure is there your heart will also be.” Talk about how His teaching might relate to the item everyone brought. This can turn into a super cool story time and tangible life connection to Jesus’ words; even possibly an opportunity for more repentance and faith.
Opportunities for Gospel & Mission:
Similar to the MC idea, what if MC leaders or everyone brought an item to the MC weekly meal that reminds them of the mission God has put in their hearts?
Let’s get this out of theoretic and into real life with some reflection and action-oriented questions:
(Answer to your context of students or MC you oversee: as a parent, mentor, or youth group leader)
- What image based learning opportunity do you have coming up?
- What is the hope for your time? What image best reveals what you hope to convey?
- How could you implement image rich opportunities into your times of teaching or equipping?
- If you’re a group leader: How could you empower your people towards using images to help grow your group as a family/community together?
- What images have been most personally impactful to you? Are they worth sharing?
I hope you’ve enjoyed this series so far and that it is blessing you and your time with students. Next up is the last one! Stay tuned.
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