As Scripture Union approaches its 150th anniversary, we are asking ourselves lots of questions about who we are and what we are called to do. It has always been an integral part of our mission to reach out to children who haven’t heard the Good News of Jesus.
As we looked at the statistics of the lack of children in churches, and the level of Bible literacy, we felt compelled to respond. For the majority of families, the once familiar Bible stories that spoke of God’s salvation for His people are completely unknown – even the Christmas and Easter stories have faded away in many schools.
Our response was to first look at the places we could connect with children or young people, and then how to deliver the Bible and the Good News of Jesus in an exciting and contemporary way.
What did we do?
As we talked and considered our approach, we quickly decided that online engagement was key. Children were increasingly seeing online as the primary place for information and entertainment, replacing books, TV, etc. Kids love playing games – they always have – so a Bible-focused game, delivered online, gave us the chance to reach beyond the church into networks and communities that enjoyed games and being online.
We started working with one of the UK’s top children’s games designers, Dubit in Leeds, and enlisted the support of some world class experts: a graphic design consultant in Los Angeles, working with Pixar and Disney Animation Studios in America, working with the Family Guy producers. We enlisted the help of a dear friend, Bob Hartman, known as one of the top children’s storytellers in the world.
We looked for partners and ways to fund the mission. We were blessed that, with only an idea on paper and nothing to see, some people got it, saw how powerful it could be and supported us.
So what is ‘Guardians of Ancora’?
Guardians of Ancora is a compelling interactive experience that children of all ages will be excited to play. It is a digital game, available for mobile devices running on Apple iOS, Google Android and Amazon Fire tablets.
The setting for the game is the virtual city of Ancora – a place where light leads to goodness, wellbeing and peace. The problem is that this light has been taken away from the people, and the only way to restore it is to re-discover the sagas of old, the stories at the heart of the community – Bible stories.
Children play as Guardians alongside the other Guardians of the city. The children playing the game as Guardians have the important task of discovering the truth of the saga stories, and bringing that truth back to Ancora where they will be rewarded with Firebugs.
These firebugs will be used to light the central light in Ancora – the Spire, the light of the world.
Discovering the truth of these Bible stories is where most of the gameplay happens, as the Guardians have to search for Jesus, the crowds or the next conversation, so they can understand the story. To move, they run, jump, climb ladders, bounce off trampolines and slide down zip wires. They solve puzzles and challenges and they can they take part in the story – for instance, helping to distribute the loaves and fishes in feeding the 5,000. As they play through the game, they become aware of the story, of Jesus, His power and authority, and the impact that Jesus has on the people around Him.
One of the key principles of Scripture Union is the undeniable truth of the Bible, and we have invested a great deal of time to ensure that the Bible settings are accurate, and that the story is retold and experienced in a way that is fun and interactive, but cannot alter the story in any way.
So how do we use it?
In Guardians of Ancora, there is a huge potential for major evangelistic mission by churches committed to bringing Jesus alive to today’s young people [ages 8 to 11].
As a starting point, get as many children in your church and extended networks to download and play the game. It’s free, so there shouldn’t be any barriers. And, once they have the game and have played it, get them to talk to their friends, talk about the fabulous images and the compelling gameplay. It can be difficult to get kids to talk about their faith but, through Guardians of Ancora, it’s much easier to say play this game. It’s fabulous, and it’s free!
Our prayer for Guardians of Ancora is that it will be one of the main global mission tools for evangelism to children, especially those aged between 8 and 11. Our commitment to get Ancora to launch, however big a job that was, is dwarfed by our passion to bring children to a relationship with our Saviour.