Have you ever found children or youth content that you were excited about but did not know how to deliver it to your children or youth because it would not relate with them? Well, we would like to look at localization which is defined as the process of adapting specific learning content to local information and materials from the learner’s community. Simply put, this means communicating with words and images in ways your audience can understand.
There is a lot of existing Christian content that can be used to bring life to our Bible engagements. However, it may not all connect with what the boys and girls in our children’s ministries are exposed to within their daily context. Jesus, our model of contextualization, made sure he always remained relevant to his audience. He used parables and stories which they could relate to and most easily apply. For example, Jesus often used farming examples knowing that Israel was an agricultural society. The Apostle Paul follows this same model of localizing his teachings.
In 1st Corinthians 9:19–23, Paul says “Though I am free and belong to no one, I have made myself a slave to everyone, to win as many as possible. To the Jews I became like a Jew, to win the Jews. To those under the law I became like one under the law (though I myself am not under the law), so as to win those under the law. To those not having the law I became like one not having the law (though I am not free from God’s law but am under Christ’s law), so as to win those not having the law. To the weak I became weak, to win the weak. I have become all things to all people so that by all possible means I might save some. I do all this for the sake of the gospel, that I may share in its blessings.”
The question we have to consider is: how do I do this?
First, let us understand why localization is important. People come from different cultural, religious and political backgrounds, which affects the way they behave and see the world. Localization helps us to get right to the heart of our audience and connect with them in a way that helps them understand what we are trying to deliver. This builds trust which opens doors for communication, helping us to speak into their life. The business world has seen the importance of localization and it ensures its brands, products and services are speaking to the heart of its customers. Our ministry world must do the same.
In a child’s world, if they have never seen or had an experience of something like flying on the plane, being at the beach or by the sea shore, it becomes hard for them to relate with these examples during a lesson. This applies to the choice of props or games that are being used to enhance or support the lesson. So when we share a lesson about Jesus teaching his disciples about making fishers of men, we can select props like the local net instead of the fishing rod and give examples of nearby lakes which they can relate to. This way whenever they see a fishing net or go by the lake they would easily remember the bible story they learned.
As we desire to localize content in our ministries, here are some questions to consider as well as next steps you can follow:
Five questions to consider —
- Activities — Do the activities in this material make sense for my audience?
- Stories — Do the stories relate to my audience?
- Sayings — Do the sayings translate properly in my culture?
- Design — Is there anything that needs to be adjusted about the design?
- Photos/Videos — Are there any photos or videos that need to be changed?
Five steps to localize —
- Recognize the need by applying the 5 questions to consider mentioned above
- Act — Take action by checking for copyrights to see if and how you can make edits. In case you are unable to edit, please ask someone at your church or ministry to help.
- Files — Pick out that which is relevant to your audience
- Edit — Take the time to identify the changes needed and make the edits
- Share what you have done with your children/youth and other teachers around you who would benefit
As we continue the work on helping children relate with Bible stories, we want to share these striking words from John Rimmer, a partner of the International Mission Board:
“Contextualization is the work of communicating unchangeable truths in understandable ways to ever-changing cultural context with the expectation that God will save.”
Thank you for all that you do to reach, rescue, root and release the Next Generation. If you are interested in growing yourself as a minister to children and youth, we are constantly developing new engaging content for you. Please continue to look out for our monthly blogs!