Mom Creates iPhone Sermon Bingo App for Kids

What if there was an app to get your kids to pay attention during church service?

That’s what Ann Goade, a mother of three, hoped to achieve with her latest creation – Big Church Bingo – an app specifically designed to teach kids to listen.

Keeping her children preoccupied during worship service was always a challenge for Goade. Like most parents who sat in church with their children, she wondered what she could do to address the problem.

Give them coloring sheets? Make them solve math problems?

These were just a few of the tactics she used to keep her children busy and quiet before she created BCB.

Although those methods did in fact keep her children preoccupied for a short while, it did not get them to listen to the sermon. And like her kids, she too was not listening, too busy picking up crayons or checking solved math problems.

“I knew there had to be a better solution,” Goade wrote on her website. “A solution to train my children to listen and participate in the worship service.”

That was when she came up with Big Church Bingo, a phone app that allowed children to have fun while listening to the sermon. It also gave parents the freedom to listen as well.

To play, a grid of words heard in a usual worship service randomly appears on the screen during each game. As a word is heard, children tap on the word, which darkens the icon. Once there are five darkened icons in a row, whether horizontally, vertically or diagonally, “bingo” is achieved.

One point is earned for each bingo. BCB keeps track of the total points scored, allowing parents to implement a reward system as well if they preferred.

One point could equal a piece of gum or candy or 5 points could earn the privilege of choosing what’s for dinner.

“Be creative and have fun personalizing your reward system!” the Texas resident suggested.

The word bank and icons were customizable. Other words heard in services that were not listed in the word bank could be added to the list as well. Personalized pictures could also be used for each word’s icon.

“Searching for the right item to represent a word can be a fun family activity. Children will be so excited to see their own smiling face representing the word children!”

The BCB app has been on the market for an estimated two months. Currently, 211 apps have been downloaded, Goade told The Christian Post in an email.

“I’ve been doing this with my children for four years now,” she also shared. “Before we moved to an app format, we used pen and paper. I found it really did help them listen to the message. I ask them questions after the service to see how much they retained and it was always more than when they were busy coloring.”

Was it better then to train children to listen in this fashion compared with the old fashioned method of simply sitting and listening?

“I think how children are trained is each parent’s choice,” Goade told CP.

“For some, it may be better to just train them to sit and listen. This was not the best option for my children. They began to dread going to church and once we implemented BCB, they couldn’t wait to go. BCB is an option for parents, but they are best equipped to train their children how they see fit.”

Accustomed to the game and the rewards system, were Goade’s children now apt to listen during worship service because a prize awaited them at the end?

“There have been many Sundays in the past four years in which we didn't have a reward at all and they listened just as intently because BCB was fun,” she described. “The reward system can be a positive reinforcement for listening and encourages interaction with parents and children, which is always a good thing.”

“My hope is for Big Church Bingo to be a blessing to families, while teaching valuable listening skills to children.”

Responses to the app have so far have been positive.

Cheryl McElroy wrote on BCB guestbook page: “Hi, I love the idea of this! I am a Children's Ministry Coordinator at our church and would love for the kids to be in the main service occasionally with their parents, but there's always the issue of ‘distractions’...kids fidgeting, getting up and down, making noise, etc...Big Church Bingo sounds like a great way to keep them listening and occupied...”

Commenter “Jennifer” remarked, “Love the Big Church Bingo! My girls don't always bingo but they work on it until the last "Amen"! I hadn't even thought to give them prizes. I may have to incorporate that. Thanks for giving my squirmy pew sitting girls something to help them focus and concentrate on. They now listen to their pastor!”

Ann Goade currently lives in Anna, Texas, with her husband, William, and their three children, Lawrence, Rachel and Gracie.

Big Church Bingo is available in the iTunes store for $1.99. It is compatible with iPhones, iPod touches and iPads.

Click here to preview the app and purchase.