A Kickstarter campaign for a children’s Bible and prayer app
A Kickstarter campaign for a children’s Bible and prayer app

Pneuma the Dove

About a month ago, I had the chance to sit down with Suzanne Haraburd in Chicago. Suzanne and her friend and colleague Pam Moore are active in the Catechesis of the Good Shepherd community but have been asking hard questions about faith formation for children whose parents don’t bring them to church.

For those children, Suzanne has designed an app to introduce Jesus through brief, age-appropriate scripture passages and wondering questions. The kids then get to respond in a creative way by writing, speaking, or drawing on the iPad. Together with the Bible verses, their responses form a book they can go back and “read” even as they continue to “write” it.

Suzanne recently launched a Kickstarter campaign to fund the development of this app. Here’s her pitch video:

There’s lots to admire about how Suzanne has gone about preparing for this Kickstarter campaign. She’s found an app developer. She’s sketched the product and an argument for why we need it. And she’s taken a ton of meetings, like the one she had with me, to get the word out about the opportunity to support this venture.

Still, I think the most compelling aspect of the project is Suzanne’s idea to let the Spirit of God introduce children to the Word of God. Here’s how she tells that story:

Even the very young child is capable of responding in a profound way to God’s word. Most often their responses are expressed in free drawing, but this age child also has a tremendous affinity for language. They love to learn new words. I knew that the app would have to create a way for the child to respond both verbally and artistically.

I started thinking about how I could use technology to give young children an engaging way to be in relationship with Jesus, and, secondarily, to learn to articulate their emotions and express their prayers through words and art. The question was how to engage children who aren’t reading yet? Knowing that many children use their iPads on their own, I didn’t want the app to depend on having an adult read to the child. The beautiful collage dove on the cover of my women’s prayer book has tiny words of inspiration embedded in the colorful wings. One day it occurred to me, why not animate the dove? The dove can read to the child, and carry simple emotion and prayer words within its wings to help the child learn the language of prayer.

I believe very strongly that Kickstarter and other crowdfunding tools will continue to grow in their importance to ministry developers. Societal giving patterns are changing in a big way, and at the center of the movement is the power to support individual projects that will make a difference.

We won’t be able to introduce all of them here on this blog. But when we do, we hope you’ll consider giving them your support. I have, and I can’t wait to see Pneuma come alive and introduce children to the Lord who calls all of us, and children especially, to himself.

Kyle Matthew Oliver (@kmoliver) is the digital missioner and learning lab coordinator in the Center for the Ministry of Teaching and a Kickstarter backer for “Who Are You Jesus?” The CMT received no compensation for this post.

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  1. After spending 3 weeks with my 2 year old grandson and a couple of toddler iPad apps I am excited by Suzanne’s project. I witnessed firsthand the cognitive skills being developed in the way my grandson was interacting with these thoughtful apps – even though he cannot read. I found his willingness to sit by himself and ‘read’ his other books enhanced by his time on the iPad rather than displaced. Most importantly, he was learning how to be solitary and engaged at the same time. I can see how this could tie in with spiritual formation and help develop the idea of ‘when you pray, go into your closet and shut the door’ – and encourage the special relationship that happens there between an individual and God. Eventually,the gadget or book can be left behind while the relationship endures.