Discipling kids through the news (with Rebecca Cochrane)
At God’s WORLD News, we’re building news literacy to better live out the gospel. But what does that look like in practice? We’re joined by GWN Managing Editor Rebecca Cochrane to explore our philosophy behind writing the news for kids.
KELSEY REED: Hello, welcome to Concurrently: The News Coach Podcast from WORLD Radio and God’s WORLD News. Our mission is to come alongside you, learning and laboring with you as you disciple kids and teens through culture and current events. I’m Kelsey Reed. I’m here with Jonathan Boes.
JONATHAN BOES: Hello!
KELSEY: And together we want to model conversation and apply tools you can use at home or in the classroom. We invite you to record or email in your questions for us to address in future episodes. Please send them to firstname.lastname@example.org.
JONATHAN: So every week on this podcast, we are talking about how to disciple your kids, teens, students through culture and current events. And that involves you, as parents, with your kids—you’re interacting with the news. But that of course leaves the question: Where is that news coming from? How are you interacting with the news? What are your news sources?
And as you know, this podcast is part of God’s WORLD News. We provide discipleship resources, news magazines, for kids all the way from early ages up through the beginning of teenage years. Today, we are going to talk about our philosophy of writing the news for kids and students. God’s WORLD News just had a big relaunch this year, with new branding on our magazine, a new website that is absolutely beautiful—our design team did such a great job with that. And so today, we want to give our listeners a greater sense of our DNA, our ethos, mission, vision, what makes us tick here at God’s WORLD News. And in light of that. we are excited to have with us the Managing Editor of God’s WORLD News. Rebecca Cochrane. Welcome, Rebecca.
REBECCA COCHRANE: Hi. Thanks for letting me be here.
KELSEY: We’re so glad to have you with us for the first time on Concurrently.
Rebecca Cochrane has been with WORLD News Group in various capacities for almost 30 years now, and her tenure began with the God’s WORLD Book Club. It continued until the way people bought books changed, and with it her role. Much of this was new product development, taking the writings of our columnists like senior writer Andrée Seu Peterson and founder Joel Belz, and turning them into books.
Her passion has always been for forming younger minds and hearts. So it was a natural fit for her to begin writing for God’s WORLD News in 2005. She became managing editor in 2020. She’s a mom of four daughters with varied school experiences, like my own and my own children—public, private, and homeschool. But the common thread for each of them, and through all of those years, has been WORLD’s discipleship materials. So again, welcome. We’re so glad to have you.
REBECCA: Thank you.
KELSEY: So Rebecca, you’ve been in our organization—wow, almost 30 years. So when we organize our thoughts on Concurrently, we often take this structure that either allows us to draw out a particular story or just to frame our conversation for the day. And we do this as much, listener, for you to just get so familiar with it that it becomes second nature to you as well. So even our interviews tend to take that shape, where we’re starting with a 30,000-foot view when speaking to one of our guests. So I just want to start there, get the lay of the land of how long that God’s WORLD News has been around and what we’re about.
So Rebecca, with your tenure, you can also give us an insider view of how things have grown and taken shape through the years. So I’d love to hear more about that process—what we’re about, what brought us to this point today.
REBECCA: Sure. Well, I have learned a lot of that history. I came in in the mid ’90s. But God’s WORLD News actually got its beginning in 1981. So we are now in our 42nd—and we’re entering our 43rd—year of existence. That’s how long this news for kids has existed. And God has sort of protected this very unique project all that time. It began out of a project with Joel Belz, our company founder. He was working with the Presbyterian Journal, which at that time was a denomination-specific news magazine. And people began to contact that organization asking if there was some source of biblically grounded news for kids, because the only things that were available were from a very secular perspective. And so Joel found a school teacher who was also a gifted writer named Norm Bomer. And they collaborated on the idea of producing news for children.
And so the very first news magazine for kids was called It’s God’s World, and it launched in 1981. Now since then, it’s grown, it’s developed, it’s deviated or grown out into, branched out into different levels. Because at first, it was just one level, sort of a catch-all. And that’s one of our distinctives that I think we can hold up to the rest of the world and say, you know, news isn’t one size fits all. Because children develop so dramatically from the very young ages that—Jonathan referred to the preschoolers, even to those teens—there’s a lot of development going on there. So the organization has changed in order to be able to accommodate children. We believe in discipling from, as some say, “cradle to glory.” And so our products represent that.
So one of the big changes came about around 2013. We did a deep dive with some help from other experts into child psychology.
REBECCA: Now, this wasn’t to try to mimic the world. But it was to try to understand our readers better. And that resulted in the three editions that we have now, which are based on broad strokes of child development.
So God’s Big WORLD, for instance, is designed for the pre-readers and very early readers. These are typically about the ages of three to six. You know your own child. You know where your child falls within those parameters. But the idea here is that, for God’s Big WORLD, these children are very young. Their exposure to the world is very limited. So they are all about discovery. Everything’s new when you’re that young, Everything’s new. So we bring news with that in mind. This is something new for your young one to discover, and it’s always grounded in this idea that God the Creator did it. God is involved in it. God is present. Look at what He’s doing. So there’s a lot of wonder and awe and excitement going on in God’s Big WORLD.
KELSEY: I remember getting it I was three years old, when the first publication came out, and just forming my understanding of the world and having this—it was really small, it was like a third of a size or maybe a half size sheet, with only maybe eight pages. I mean, it was really small, but it was just my size. And I remember it stoking my curiosity about the world. I was loving story. Hearing my dad read to me every night, this was something that was for me. So I remember the enthusiasm and motivation that I even had stoked in me by this very first publication. So for our littlest people, for them to begin to discover, that’s beautiful.
REBECCA: Thank you for sharing that. I don’t think you’ve ever told me that before. So that’s great to hear. Because that is exactly the vision that we have for God’s Big WORLD. And I have a similar experience with my own daughter, my youngest, who is now actually 16 and starting to drive a car. But we would set aside—when she was that small—we would set aside Tuesdays. We said, “Tuesdays are news days,” and every Tuesday we had that really precious on-the-lap time, where she would sit with me and we would look through God’s Big WORLD. And I would ask her, “What do you think is happening in this picture?” And then we would say, “Let’s read and find out,” after she made her observations. And it was such a precious, precious time, because she was learning about God’s world. We were able to point to what He was doing, this foundational—these little seed kernels of experience in the world were always grounded in the fact that there was this loving and present Creator, who was doing these magnificent things, who was acting through His people, who was just bringing His glory to bear on this Earth that she was growing up in. Sweet moments.
KELSEY: I love it. It is a natural reflection of how the things that we’re trying to do that most often seem to be attuned towards those older students—because we’re getting into those higher levels of analysis—that when we’re talking about this method of asking questions of your children, that transfers into the youngest child. This isn’t just for those older children who are tackling harder topics, challenging things that they need to think through worldview lenses to be able to understand and engage the story that’s being told in deeper layers. But it begins with the earliest layers of childhood. And I love that you have already talked about the development of attuning the material in a developmentally appropriate way to the different stages. So we attune our questions, we attune our content, each to grab a child exactly where they are at in their learning process. So move into that next level. What are we doing with the WORLDkids level?
REBECCA: Right, so WORLDkids is geared toward the elementary age levels. We bracket it approximately ages seven to 10. And kids at this age, they’ve got some of that context that the early readers were just beginning to develop. They’ve made a good bit of discovery, but they’ve—their minds are just kicking right at this point. This is often that “Why?” If you’re a parent, you know, “Why, why, why?” They want to explore more. They want to go deeper. So WORLDkids takes them on a journey of exploration through the news. We typically do each news topic with two stories for that purpose. So we tell the news, “This is what is happening.” But then we do a second story that relates to that, which gives them a more multifaceted look at the story. We help them ground it in some context. They’ve got some context, we’re going to add a little bit more. It may be a scientific context. It may be a historical context. It may be a cultural context. But there’s always that second supportive story to let them explore the concept deeper, and take them a little bit further into it. We still have those overarching beliefs that God is working in the world, God is the Creator, people are His agents on Earth. We have responsibility, because we are His, to use His things wisely. And we keep moving into those themes through everything that we are presenting.
KELSEY: So for folks who are tracking with us in terms of that idea of our SOAR arc, we’re in these levels, now we’re observing the details of what goes into our craft. We’re looking at the developmental pieces, maybe different categories. That’s one thing I’d like for you to talk about a little bit, are the categories that we use for our stories, and even go so far into talking about, how do we choose stories for the three-to 10-year-olds? Because I think that that is helpful to think about that arc in a comparative way. You know, what are we doing when we choose stories for three- to six-year-olds versus stories for seven- to 10-year-olds? And also, what reading level would you suggest that it is? So all these little details, I’m so keen to have you address them.
REBECCA: So reading level—I’ll go back to God’s Big WORLD. The God’s Big WORLD information is actually delivered in two sections for each story. The very first section is designed for those very young ones to try to read on their own. Some of them may not actually be reading yet, or they’re just beginning to recognize sight words. So we keep that in mind. We try to incorporate some of those kindergarten sight words into the stories themselves, and keep the reading level very, very low. First grade at most. But below that, there is a “Read More” section that is really geared for the adult who’s doing this alongside the child to read out loud, to read and glean more information and paraphrase so that you’re actually having a discussion with your child or the children in your care about the topic that you’ve just covered.
KELSEY: I know, for my own eight-year-old, this was when we started seeing that she was ready to move into WORLDkids, because she started reading the “Read More” section. So just the design, from a literacy perspective, is excellent, fine-tuned.
REBECCA: In WORLDkids we’re shooting for something more like about a fourth grade reading level. It is still a challenge for some of those younger ones in that group. But we’re not opposed to challenge. We don’t want to overburden with it, but we do want to be a part of stretching.
KELSEY: That’s so true. Learning does not happen without challenge. So again, very fitting, very appropriate in terms of understanding the way that a child grows. So now talk a little bit more about some of those categories that we use in WORLDkids, maybe specifically.
REBECCA: Well, I can say about God’s Big WORLD that we have a general guideline that we try for in each week’s little segment. So the packet comes out every other month, and it has eight sections in it. And each segment has three stories and a puzzle. So the idea is you would do one of those segments each week. We try, with broad strokes, to make sure that one of those is about something people are doing, one of them is usually about something that involves an animal or an animal species—because that is so interesting to children at that age level; really gets them interested and involved—and then one is a broader topic. That might be about a place, or a scientific exploration, or a discovery, or something like that. So that’s just broad so that we get a range of things being covered even on that very little level.
On the two older editions, WORLDkids and WORLDteen, we actually have our news categorized. And think about, like, when you pick up a newspaper, you’ll see, okay—here’s the business section, here’s the economics section, here’s the sports section, here’s the culture section. Our magazines also have those sections. So for Kids, we have, for instance, Science Sup—we have stories from the news that have a science component to them. We have Citizen Ship, which is about laws and government and personal responsibility in community. So we have Time Machine, which is news stories that have somehow a connection to this thread of history that we are operating in, so maybe there’s some historical context that needs to be explained, or there’s some looking forward to the future about innovation, or something that’s coming. So those are a few of the categories that we’re covering. There are six actually in Kids, eight in Teen, which we haven’t talked about yet.
But as we’re going through, we’re gleaning from the news of the day to find those things that are interesting for kids, appropriate for them to know at the age where they are for each addition, and give us opportunity to populate this entire selection with a very broad and robust Christian worldview. Because we do believe that there is not one inch of this creation that does not belong to our Lord. It is all His. And so we’re not just, for instance, missionary stories—though we will cover missionary stories, and we’re very excited when we have those opportunities. We’re covering things from all over and all manner of topics to create that robust worldview.
KELSEY: This is why we belong in that discipleship branch. We need to consider very well this idea of what it means to operate in the Lord’s world, knowing that it’s His world in its entirety. And so we’re shaping those things and everything that we write. I love hearing about the multiplied categories, so that every inch, as you said, every inch is not only stomped on by all of us—I don’t know, that’s not really a great way to say it—but we are we are meant to go out and walk all over. You need to claim this Earth for the Lord.
REBECCA: Habakkuk says “Tread on.” We tread on it.
KELSEY: There you go. That’s what it comes from. “Tread on this Earth.” Go out. So it also reminds me of another thing that was very influential during the days that my dad was training to be a pastor, this idea that a pastor should have a Bible in one hand and the newspaper in the other. And some people need that to be unpacked a little bit more, but it is still in keeping with that idea from Kuyper, that we need to know about this world in order to bring the gospel into it. And so we’re really taking that idea seriously, with everything we do in this discipleship branch of WORLD News Group. So I’d love for you to go in further. Maybe we’re at WORLDteen now, or where would you like to take us next on our journey?
REBECCA: Well, I definitely don’t want to skip over WORLDteen, but I do—you mentioned the idea of story—and I do think that that is so important for all these levels, and for even the adults, for us to recognize that our God told us about Himself through story. When you pick up the Bible, in the very first page, He’s telling the story of creation. When you look at the story of His people, as He’s building a people for Himself, as He’s calling Abraham out, as He’s defining a culture in Egypt, as He’s taking them through the wilderness where they encounter other cultures that are going to be opposed to Him—He tells us through story. The Gospel writers recorded the story of Jesus, who also used stories, parables, to help us to understand what He was there for, who we are in His sight, and what our very good news for living is. So story is a thread that’s just important to humanity. And so I totally agree with your dad—the Bible in one hand and the newspaper in another, and throwing a few fiction books in there too, please, because they expand our thinking and our ability to generate empathy and understanding for things we may not experience firsthand. So the let’s just call that a perfect triad?
KELSEY: I agree. And Paul reinforces that through his knowledge of the Greek poets. We see that fiction is very much informative and creates those bridges to another culture that we can run across with this good news. And we’ll get to some more of that idea in terms of how you sum that up in your thinking about our overarching purpose in a beautiful phrase as we get to the end of our program. But as we’re talking about story, and thinking about how many are multiplied into WORLDteen—because we’re getting into that level, where we have eight categories—I want to hear a little bit about how we choose stories for WORLDteen, and just anything else you want to tell us about that particular periodical.
REBECCA: Yes. So WORLDteen is for these, actually, tweenagers and young teens. The age range we’re covering there is approximately ages 11 to 14. We do hear occasionally of some older teens, 15, 16 years old still reading it. But often they have moved on to a little bit headier, heavier kind of content by that point. So we are looking at the young teens and the preteens, middle school age is approximately the range that we’re talking about there. We are still pretty careful with our selection as far as age appropriateness for this age level, because we are absolutely committed to what we hold as a truth, that despite the fact that these young people are being exposed in the culture to a lot of issues in the news that require deep spiritual application, we believe that the parent, or teacher, or grandparent, or mentor who knows that child’s heart and maturity level is the best person to talk directly about those extremely challenging issues.
KELSEY: And hence sprung the idea of how News Coach posture was going to be, but we’ll have to touch on that a little bit more later too. But there is a vast deluge of news and information. So keep on going in terms of how we select what we will and will not put into WORLDteen.
REBECCA: Yes. So I’m going to relate this to an experience I had many years ago with a pastor. This pastor was a friend and also a teacher in my church. And I had had an experience with a woman who was—she claimed to be a Christian, but she had some beliefs that were very different from mine. And I was beginning to pick up that she might belong to some sort of a sect or cult. And I put it upon myself to be the one who would study all the sects and cults and different worldviews and figure out which one she was. I’m not sure why that was so important to me. But I think there was a little bit of a morbid fascination, like, “what can I figure out to discern, and then I can prove her wrong” sort of approach. And I was talking to him about this, and he really encouraged me to have a shift in my thinking, in which he said, “Rebecca, you don’t need to study the darkness. Study the light.”
And that really lodged with me. And I feel like it is a position that I have brought to our department, to God’s WORLD News, and especially to these young teens. They are just about to where they are on the threshold of embarking on their life’s journey, in which they are going to meet a lot of darkness. They are. It is the fact. I don’t feel like our position right now, at this young tender age, is to throw open that darkness. But it is to help them be well acquainted with the Light, so that the contrast is apparent to them. So I will say that we are trying very much to cover a broad range of things that will deepen their thinking, that will help them to develop discernment, and that will help them to differentiate between what is good and true and what appears to be a lie. Even if it’s a lie that’s cloaked very predictably in something else.
I’ll give a concrete example of a couple of issues. Of course, obviously, abortion and gender issues right now are hot topics in the news. Your children will be exposed to those. You as parents, teachers, the people who are closely involved with them, will know when they are ready to talk about those things in detail. I cannot know that. So I am not going to write a story about those two issues, and put it out there anonymously in front of them, for them to read alone. That’s not our purpose. But what I will do, we, our team, will seek stories that validate the dignity and sanctity and beauty of all human life. So we will look for stories that value the disabled individual, the challenged individual, the young people. “What are children doing in our culture?”—because they are so valuable. What are elderly people—you know, and it’s not even necessarily what they’re doing, but the fact that this story that we select, what’s the reason for it? Well, it brings dignity to humanity, brings an opportunity for us to show the image-bearer status of every human, and how that person has value in God’s eyes, because He is their Creator. So that’s one aspect of it. On the gender issues, we will show, as often as we possibly can, the goodness of God’s original design. We will hold up the strengths of both male and female. We do not try to promote one over the other but show them in partnership with one another together, sharing the glory of God and working for Him. We believe very much in the beauty and sanctity of marriage and the marriage unit. And so our stories will seek to show the light and the good of those kinds of things. So that there is a contrast to the darkness which they are going to encounter very soon, if not already.
KELSEY: So we have started at this 30,000 foot view of this overarching vision, mission, and even a little bit of history. “Now we’re moving way down into the heart level, where those most important things of our discipleship are engaged carefully by the parent. And Jonathan, you happen to be a parent of one of our age group, and also a writer for another one of our age groups. And we’ve talked about some of these things before, but while we’re on this lowest level of the heart approach, I want you to unpack some of the heart approach that you take as you write a WORLDteen story.
JONATHAN: Everything Rebecca said about being able to show the light, that is so huge. One of the things I love about writing for WORLDteen is how, at that level, you can really start to get into questions, start to add a little more complexity to stories where, at the WORLDkids level, we might have a more concrete application or takeaway. But at the WORLDteen level, you can leave things a little more open-ended and start to get a little more into the question-raising without providing all the answers, and pointing back to biblical truth but being able to show the shades of complexity in an issue that really is complex, and to kind of get the gears turning and hopefully lead to further conversations. I don’t know about you guys, but in my experience, those age ranges, like the very early teen years, are when you start having so many definite opinions about the world that can be so hard and fast and black and white. And so being able to stand in the place of biblical truth and use that as a springboard for adding complexity and saying, “Is it really that black and white? Let’s think about, you know—yeah, these people are doing something that’s wrong, but what about their humanity? They’re made in the image of God.” Being able to seed that sort of thinking into those stories is something I really love to be able to do.
KELSEY: And I think you do it with aplomb. I’ve always been grateful to read the stories that I know you are writing, and just engage with my teens who are really out of that specific age range, but I have to tell you—my niece has been reading your writing, and she has thrilled to it. And so I see how it is shaping her thinking. She’s in homeschool right now. She’s spending a bunch of time having her thinking shaped by people like you and the things that she reads. And I’m just so very grateful.
Now we have done a little bit of analytical work as we have been unpacking observation work. And what I mean is that we’ve begun to answer this question, that instead of us unpacking further, I’m going to do that teacherly thing of stating a question out there for it to be unpacked by you, listener, at home. Which is this question of: Why is it important for kids and teens to be aware of current events, and to learn how to interact with the news? Again, we have begun to approach some answers from our perspective. But I think it is a question that is worth wrestling with at home.
From there, I want to talk about the other ways that we see news presented in the world and ask you, Rebecca, you know—I know I’ve had my ear increasingly to the ground since joining this team, my eyes open to look for how this news is being told, how current events are being framed by other outlets. What do you see? And Jonathan, please feel free to chime in as well, about how the news is told specifically to children by other organizations, and how do we compare with it? And what makes us distinctly different, that we can kind of see in that comparison and contrast?
REBECCA: First of all, I will say, there is so much out there. There is just—there are so many sources of news, even directed specifically toward kids. We are seeing, of course, for a couple of generations now, there’s been the in-classroom news provided by secular sources, internet channels that are dedicated to children. Some of them are spinoffs of adult products which just sort of bring the age level down. Some of them are designed specifically for children. And then, of course, there is the internet. And a lot of news gets propagated on the internet, and not necessarily very well. It’s hard to talk in general about those because a lot of them have different, different approaches.
But a few things that really stand out. You said “What makes us distinctly different?” First of all is, we don’t take a “one size fits all” approach to the news. We’ve talked about that. The age appropriate leveling is one thing, but a really big thing that we do with each story that we do end up presenting—our writers start with asking why? Why is this important for a child, a Christian growing up today, being discipled through God’s world through into their maturity? Why is this important for you to know? And if we don’t have a good answer for that, that story is not going to make it into our selection. So we’re looking for the meat. Now a lot of times that meat is also very entertaining and engaging, and it should be. But it needs to have a purpose. There’s a reason why we are delivering this story.
Another thing that I think is important is to recognize that we are telling the story from the perspective of the full knowledge of who is the Creator, Sustainer, and Savior of this world. We are not looking to build any sort of hysteria, or what you would call modern-day activism. Of course, we want to be working alongside the parents and teachers who are raising up these children to help bring them to maturity. And with maturity comes application of our faith, which involves praying for and acting for the good of others. But we’re not taking an activist approach. And a lot of the social media news that your kids are getting, if they’re on any kind of social media, it is all about either creating an emotional response, a hysteria, or an action. “I have to get involved with this,” “I have to boycott this,” or “I have to act against that.” And that’s not our goal. Our goal is helping them to see that we have a God who acts and who uses us according to His will, to act in appropriate ways and times, for His purposes and not our own.
We also have more opportunity, just—you talked a little bit about news literacy and biblical literacy—we have an opportunity to really bring those two things together. And there is no one else that I can think of who is actually doing that the way that we are. And I would like to give an example of a story that was in the news very recently, on the kids channels. It was literally everywhere. You could go to any news outlet for kids and you would find it, and it was also written about in our publications—and I think it was Jonathan, actually, who wrote this one. You may recall that, just a few weeks ago, it was announced that there was a spotless giraffe born in a zoo in Tennessee. Well, I love giraffes. I think they are magnificent creatures. I cannot look at one without thinking how creative our God is, and jus—amazing that He would think of that. Well, here’s this absolutely gorgeous specimen of a giraffe. But it is a reticulated giraffe that has no spots.
JONATHAN: Reticulated no reticulation.
REBECCA: Exactly. It’s an anomaly among giraffes. But what a thing of beauty it is. Now all the news channels were saying, “Look, this is unusual. Here it is, see?” Like sort of a sideshow. It’s like a sideshow act. Jonathan was able to present that in the glory of what the Creator had done with this unique and spotless individual. And I hope that one day I get to see it, it’s on my bucket list. But then he was able to also say, “What is spotlessness?” And he was able to talk a little bit about our perfect, spotless Savior, which is a theme that is throughout scripture.
So while his news story wasn’t particularly a Bible lesson, it was planting an example and a visual image and a way to evaluate what is going on in this very literal creation in front of us. That applies to a biblical truth that is a metaphorical and symbolic truth. We are helping plant those seeds that will allow that child, a little bit later, to understand that metaphorical comparison, so when they, that child, is reading the Bible—say that child comes to the story of Jacob, you know, how he collected, when he was tending sheep for his father-in-law, and he made a deal, “I’ll collect all the flawed, the spotted, the blemished ones; you keep the perfect ones.” And he collects and he builds for himself this herd that is just magnificent, and he becomes one of the wealthiest men because of it. Well, okay, that story is about Jacob. It’s about what he did. It’s about his little prank on his father-in-law. But it’s also about our spotless Savior, who welcomes the blemished with open arms and sees them with this full value. A child reading that news story about the giraffe isn’t going to get that on first reading. But five, 10, 15 years later, that image becomes so much more clear, because Jonathan Boes explained spotlessness through a biblical lens when they were small.
KELSEY: It’s planting seeds—gospel seeds that will bear good fruit.
JONATHAN: I love that we can bring those applications and worldview elements into our stories, because I think, in my mind, one of the things that does, is it helps break down the silos that we can slip into in our life, where it’s like—our worship and prayer happens in this silo, and our reading and watching the news happens in this silo. And at a young age, introducing to kids the idea that—no, like, your Christian worldview and those spiritual things come into the way we look at the news, and it permeates all of our life, not just, you know, certain things that seem more spiritual. We get back to the idea that it’s all God’s world—being able to not just say that, but model it through the way we do the stories.
And just the last thing that comes to mind with our publications, I love that we’re committed to having print magazines, a print version. Because everything you were saying about social media—online news can be a powerful tool, but also, the more extreme it is, the more interaction it gets, and the more it’s fed into our news feeds. And everything’s so fast. And you know, there’s all sorts of research on what the internet has done to our attention span. But interacting with something in print, you know, it makes us look closer, it makes us slow down. That is so valuable, just to be training kids to stop, think, process, not just take the sound bite, not just get the most extreme version of whatever is coming through social media.
KELSEY: So our manner and our method, our very forms, those tangible things, are a representation of our mentality, this idea that we need to reflectively engage the world. And so we are causing the opportunity to slow down and create that reflective capacity, even by our very materials. So everything is so intentional. I’m so encouraged by the amount of intention, and it brings me joy and to be able to be a part of such an intentional team. And it gives us a chance to talk a little bit about how this role came into play, as seeking to keep along step of this intentionality, and to continue to generously approach this idea of discipleship through what we can give. So do you want to talk a little bit about this institution of News Coach?
REBECCA: Yes. So about two years ago, maybe it’s been a little closer to two and a half now, we began a research project for the division for God’s WORLD News. We wanted to know how we could be of better service to the families who are Christians who are raising children in this world today. So we did some extensive research. Email surveys were a big, broad stroke. But we did a lot of talking to individuals. We talked to parents of homeschoolers, parents who had their children in Christian schools, parents who were believers who had their children in public schools. We talked to school administrators, classroom teachers. We talked to grandparents. We talked to pastors and discipleship leaders at churches and children’s ministry directors and youth ministry directors. So we threw, we cast the net large, to try to get as much information as we possibly could. We were talking to people who were using our products, and we were talking to people who were not. And a few things came out of that. And one was a tremendous affirmation that what we were doing was good. We were doing a good thing. Their children, either the ones who were using it enjoyed it, or the ones who were not, were not because they weren’t aware that it existed. And lots of parents in that camp said, “Wow, I could have been using this all along! I didn’t know you were there.” So that was a challenge for us to make sure that we were trying to find ways to reach those people who would fall into that camp.
But one cry that we heard over and over again was: It’s gotten too big. The news has gotten too big. There’s too much. It’s coming at us from all directions. It’s—the content of the news has changed. It has ramped up to these levels of difficulty that we weren’t prepared for. Life is busy, and I, somewhere along the line, stopped talking to my children about the important things. And now I don’t know where to start.
That fell into two camps. One was a parent saying, “I don’t feel informed enough for myself, because I’m too overwhelmed by everything that’s being shot at me.” And I say shot at me because they really were presenting us with the image of the firehose, just a firehose of information—there’s too much coming at me, I don’t know what’s true and what isn’t, and I don’t know how to even bring this up with my child. And so out of that, we began this discussion of—what if we were able to provide a resource where a calm voice was helping to highlight issues in the news at a digestible pace? Take what’s offered here in this organization, through our other WORLD news reporting, and highlight those things that are kind of most at the forefront of the news right now, and then give you some tools with which you can break it down to be able to start this conversation with your children again? We like to say we need to “normalize talking to our children again.” And so that is where the idea of having a News Coach, someone who was particularly a bridge between the news itself and the people using it with young people, would connect to those two in a way that was accessible, and not overwhelming, and calming, and give some very applicable tools.
And that is where Kelsey came on the scene, with her very specific set of skills and gifts and knowledge and training and heart dedication, to fill that role.
JONATHAN: And calm presence.
REBECCA: And calm presence. That was absolutely key. You can tell by the way, my voice goes up and down that I wasn’t designed for that role. But yes, Kelsey brought it all. And then Jonathan, who was already kind of on the edges of our organization and brought in a lot of the other production skills, and made a very good “mind mate” for Kelsey in this News Coach position. And that is why we’re able to bring you their weekly podcast, the weekly newsletter now—which is brand new, the email newsletter, if you haven’t signed up for it, you’ll want to do that, we’ll tell you how—with these processes for evaluating all that’s in front of you, and making even those processes—sometimes to tell someone, “You need a new process,” that sounds daunting. But the gift that you two bring to this is, you break it down into these simple, accessible steps. And then you model them in the conversation. And then you use them over and over again, so that those of us who are a little late to this game or busy can plug in and begin to absorb it until it becomes a natural part of the way that we enhance or bring about dialogue.
KELSEY: And part of the reason why I even called it “institution,” because I really don’t see myself as institution. I use this word actually very intentionally to say that it has become a team within the team. And really everyone in our team thinks, because they’re adults, they think in this way of “What does it mean to constantly be raising up the generation that’s behind us?” And so it has become this other face of the entire GWN team, that we’re constantly donning the hat of “How do we equip parents?” And then taking that hat back off to be able to speak directly to children. And it is such a precious process. It is a teaching and learning process that all adults, all children, should be in as we reach with one hand forward and one hand back, learning from the person who’s ahead of us, gathering and drawing along behind us the one who is younger than us.
So if this has whetted your appetite for doing this, for being equipped with materials that help to engage your conversations with your children—Rebecca, I’d love for you to talk about where people can get a hold of our materials.
REBECCA: If you’ve been to the News Coach website, you’re already in the family. You would just need to visit gwnews.com. That’s where you will find the opportunity to subscribe to any of our three editions, or multiples of them. And this is a really good time, as we’re at the start of the school year, if you want to add that on now, we are actually running a sale. It’s the best we’ve ever offered. You can get a year subscription for 50% off its regular price. Each subscription is just under $18 a year with the 50% discount. And that comes to just under $1.50 a month. So for that you get six print issues of the magazine over the course of the year—they come out every other month—and you get full access to everything on the website for that level, which includes all of our content plus resources for the teachers and parents that give you ideas for extending the learning experience—some activities, recommended reading that’s associated with that. And children have the opportunity to respond to us by sending in their drawings or letters to the editor. And some of those will actually appear on the new website.
JONATHAN: We always have a link to the GWNews website in our show notes. But this week, we will put that at the top of the show notes, so you can find that link to gwnews.com. And that is in the show notes—you can find those in our podcast description, if you’re listening in on a podcast app, or at the bottom of our episode transcript.
REBECCA: And the website is also where you can go to subscribe to the new News Coach newsletter, if you haven’t done that already.
KELSEY: So we’re delighted to be able to present all these things to you, remembering that this is the Father’s world, and that we are growing up into Christ.
And so from Hebrews 5 today: For a time—and that’s my words, for a time—“You need milk, not solid food, for everyone who lives on milk is unskilled in the word of righteousness, since he is a child. But solid food is for the mature, for those who have their powers of discernment trained by constant practice to distinguish good from evil.”
And this is what we grow up into, where we chew on that meat, and we learn how to not only discern for our sake, but also to engage the world. We talk about this idea of building news literacy to better live out the gospel—and that is what we pray, that we are helping equip you, equip ourselves, to do. But ultimately, parent, teacher, mentor of kids and teens: He has equipped you for the work.
At God’s WORLD News, we’re building news literacy to better live out the gospel. But what does that look like in practice? We’re joined by GWN Managing Editor Rebecca Cochrane to explore our philosophy behind writing the news for kids.
For a limited time, you can get 50% off a yearly subscription to any God’s WORLD News publication. Visit gwnews.com to subscribe today.
Check out The Concurrently Companion for this week’s downloadable episode guide including discussion questions and scripture for further study. Sign up for the News Coach Newsletter at gwnews.com/newsletters.
We would love to hear from you. You can send us a message at email@example.com. What current events or cultural issues are you wrestling through with your kids and teens? Let us know. We want to work through it with you.
See more from the News Coach, including episode transcripts.
Read “Asking Questions Increases Our Children’s Learning and Agency in the World” at the News Coach Blog.
Read “Relationship: the Best Place to Learn from Toddler to Teen” at the News Coach blog.
Concurrently is produced by God’s WORLD News. We provide current events materials for kids and teens that show how God is working in the world. To learn more about God’s WORLD News and browse sample magazines, visit gwnews.com. We’re having our biggest sale yet! Get 50% off an annual subscription to God’s WORLD News through 10/15/2023.
Today’s episode is sponsored by Covenant College.
Looking for an unapologetically Christian College Experience? Pursuing knowledge transformed by faith, Covenant College prepares students for their callings and careers. Covenant is located on top of Lookout Mountain, Georgia, 20 minutes from Chattanooga, Tennessee. Students who visit are eligible to receive a grant of $1,200. More at Covenant.edu/world.
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