Reaching Kids Via Netflix
In 2014, Randy R. Thompson, an Assemblies of God U.S. missionary with Missionary Church Planters & Developers, launched the first season of the 'Tween You and Me television series, a Christian variety show for children ages eight to 12.
The show took off, with broadcasting now available in over 160 million homes via six satellite networks and 80 local television stations across the U.S.
As he prepares to launch the second season, Thompson says he is ready to take the show to the next level — via Netflix. The media giant recently started offering religious content in an effort to expand its audience. Thompson hopes to expand the show’s reach as well.
During an impromptu survey at a Christian school where he spoke, Thompson asked how many of 300 students watched Christian TV. Only a few raised their hands. But when he asked how many kids viewed Netflix, he says every hand went up.
“That’s where the 20 million 'tweens in that age group live,” he says. “Very few kids watch Christian TV. It’s a new day.”
His break came when a longtime friend introduced him to Mike B. Davis, president of Uptone Pictures. Davis, whose film Union Bound will be released in theaters in April, offered to produce the second season and get the series on Netflix.
Thompson and his team of 30 students work hard to write scripts that are relevant to kids while introducing them to the gospel message. Rather than follow the outmoded and well-worn formula of much of Christian TV children’s programming, Thompson takes his cues from shows already aimed at 'tweens.
“A number of 'tween shows have crafted this generation, and not necessarily for the good,” he says. “You can get a feel for the culture by what they’re watching and listening to.”
He also has Instagram and other social media accounts, which he says are often conversation starters with the 30 kids he teaches on Wednesday nights at the church he attends, Concord First Assembly in North Carolina.
Thompson had been a full-time children’s pastor for 16 years when his passion to make Christian-based programs more relevant for kids led him to form KidzAblaze Ministries International in 2003. A few years later, he began holding one-day events called Kidz Rock USA throughout North Carolina and South Carolina. While the first gathering drew 850 kids, Thompson knew the venue had the potential to reach thousands.
Consequently, he got the idea to create the television show as an advertisement for the one-day events.
Thompson says only so much evangelism and discipleship can take place through a TV show or online experience. However, at all-day events he can meet with the kids one-on-one, and teach about salvation and the Holy Spirit. He has seen hundreds of kids come to an altar at live events, weeping and seeking more of Jesus. The events draw kids from all denominations, but Thompson says they learn how much God loves them and how they can respond to Him.
Using Netflix analytics, Thompson will be able to see which cities have the highest concentration of viewers, and then take the cast, band, and drama team and do a live, one-day event in that city at a church or neutral location.
Thompson is working on raising the $85,000 needed to produce the 20 episodes in season two.
“There’s no comparison to what Christian TV offers and regular secular TV,” Thompson says. “We’re just trying to be a bridge.”