EDMOND — A South Florida mom was pleased to see her children drawn into the timeless stories of the Bible through a new app developed and recently launched by Edmond-based LifeChurch.tv.
“BibleAppforKids being read this morning while getting ready for school!” April Floria tweeted recently.
Mark Brown, a Tomball, Texas, media company founder, also took to Twitter to share his child's fondness for the new “Bible App for Kids.”
“Daughter just playd Bible4Kids app 4 ages! Hard 2 get her 2 engage with the Bible SO WOW!” Brown tweeted as @RevMarkB.
Since its Thanksgiving Day debut, the new Bible app for children has been downloaded more than 1 million times — a great first week, said the Rev. Bobby Gruenewald, pastor-innovation leader of LifeChurch.tv.
Gruenewald said LifeChurch.tv created the new app for children ages 4 to 10, although even younger children are expressing interest in it. He said the church sought the aid of the international ministry One Hope to develop the app so that children would be easily immersed in the stories of the Bible.
The app is similar in many ways to some of the games that many children are enamored with, Gruenewald said. During the design phase, the church sought out children to get their feedback on things such as artwork and interactive elements.
The app includes touch-activated animation, kid-friendly navigation, content that introduces children to the “big story” of the Bible and interactive experiences designed to encourage children to return often, he said. It is designed for children who can't read yet or who are beginning or early readers.
“As children navigate through a particular story, they can listen, read and see it come to life by tapping on the different people that are in each story and the different scenes of it. It has a lot of gaming-type elements like hidden objects and achievements that children get for completing different parts of the app or different parts of the stories,” he said.
“There are things by design that are there to help pull children in and make it both fun but also something that's very educational, something they can learn a lot from.”
Kids plug in
Of course, the megachurch with 50,000 members attending multiple sites in five states is no stranger to helping to connect people to the Bible.
In July, LifeChurch.tv marked the fifth anniversary of its popular YouVersion Bible app, shortly after the free app hit the 100 million downloads marker. The app is available in formats for most mobile devices and is notable for its 604 different versions and 368 languages.
Gruenewald said church leaders decided to create the app for children at the request of numerous parents who liked the YouVersion Bible app and thought a similar app for a younger generation would be helpful.
He said church leaders thought the timing was right because of the growing number of children using mobile devices.
“I have four young kids myself between 7 months old and 8 years old, and I personally, as a parent, am kind of witnessing my kids' excitement and engagement with their tablets and phones and anything they can get their hands on to play games with,” Gruenewald.
He said the church's mission with the YouVersion Bible app is to see the “most Bible-engaged generation in history,” and the app for children is another way to fulfill that goal.
Gruenewald said the “Bible App for Kids” was launched with six Bible stories: “In the Beginning,” which tells the creation story chronicled in Genesis; “The First Christmas Gift,” about the Nativity; “First Sin,” about Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden; “It Is Finished,” about Christ's crucifixion; “Empty Tomb-Happy Sunday,” which tells the Easter story; and “Through the Roof,” which shares the story of Jesus' healing of a paralytic man (Mark 2:1-12).
More to come
Gruenewald said more stories will be added over the next year or so. He said a seventh story likely will be added in the next several weeks, and the plan is to offer 40 stories that can give children “the grand narrative” of the Bible.
“These are stories that tell the big picture of the Bible,” he said.
Translations in other languages eventually will be made available. Plus, Gruenewald said they plan to add a feature that will allow parents to interact with their children by connecting their YouVersion accounts.
Gruenewald likened the new app to a gift to the global community-at-large because it can be downloaded free, just like the YouVersion Bible app.
Thus far, he said parents seem to be receiving the app as the present it was intended to be. He said more than 450,000 people installed the app the day it was launched, and it was the No. 1 children's app and No. 1 educational app in the Apple iTunes store that day. Also, on its launch day, the app was No. 2 overall of the apps available for the iPad, Gruenewald said.
“But more than the numbers, the big thing for us was that the feedback we were getting from parents was overwhelmingly positive. Many of them were taking pictures of the kids using the Bible App for Kids and posting them on Twitter. They were just watching their kids engage. Some were saying ‘My kids won't give my phone back to me!'” Gruenewald said.
“It indicated that the app was resonating. It was working and accomplishing what we set out to do.”