How Can Leaders Cultivate Wonder in a World of Incessant Distraction?

Be encouraged to work on creating wonder in kids in a world so easily distracted by information and entertainment.
6 min read

We live in a world that is enveloped by beauty. Poet Gerard Manley Hopkins said that our world “is charged with the grandeur of God.”

The world is filled with information. It is saturated with entertainment options. It’s hard to maintain a state of wonder in those circumstances. 

Last year nearly 2.5 million books were published worldwide. Countless online articles and a plethora of podcasts were also produced. The average child spends 7.5 hours a day passively consuming media and television. That may not seem like a lot, but in one year, that adds up to 114 24-hour days of solid screen time.

We are drowning in information and lost in a sea of entertainment. And that decreases our capacity for wonder

What Culture Creates

Neil Postman opened his classic work Amusing Ourselves to Death by juxtaposing two famous dystopian novels, Orwell’s 1984 and Huxley’s Brave New World. Postman’s work proposed that Huxley’s vision of the decay of our culture won the day over Orwell’s oppressive vision. 

Orwell warns that we will be overcome by an externally imposed oppression. But in Huxley’s vision, no Big Brother is required to deprive people of their autonomy, maturity and history. As he saw it, people will come to love their oppression, to adore the technologies that undo their capacities to think. What Orwell feared were those who would ban books.

What Huxley feared was that there would be no reason to ban a book, for there would be no one who wanted to read one. Orwell feared those who would deprive us of information. Huxley feared those who would give us so much that we would be reduced to passivity and egoism. Orwell feared that the truth would be concealed from us. Huxley feared the truth would be drowned in a sea of irrelevance. Orwell feared we would become a captive culture.

Huxley feared we would become a trivial culture, preoccupied with some equivalent of the feelies, the orgy porgy, and the centrifugal bumblepuppy. As Huxley remarked in Brave New World Revisited, the civil libertarians and rationalists who are ever on the alert to oppose tyranny “failed to take into account man’s almost infinite appetite for distractions.”

In 1984, Huxley added, people are controlled by inflicting pain. In Brave New World, they are controlled by inflicting pleasure. In short, Orwell feared that what we hate will ruin us. Huxley feared that what we love will ruin us.

Neil Postman

Postman’s words could not be more accurate. We have created a culture in the west and have, in turn, exported it around the world. This culture is dominated not by what we hate but by what we obsessively love. 

Instilling Wonder

As a parent and pastor reading that introduction by Postman, I realize that he nails our cultural moment. We are raising kids with “an infinite appetite for distraction.” So how do we instill wonder when information and entertainment devour it daily? 

Make sure kids experience boredom. 

If you grew up before the internet and before the video game revolution, you’re like me. Remember waiting in lines, riding in cars, and sitting in waiting rooms bored out of your mind?

Boredom is not an enemy to be conquered with information and lights. It is a state of being that gives birth to wonder. If kids are never bored, chances are they will never think deeply about how we got here and why. If we never create room for kids to wonder and be moved with gratitude, they will only know how to observe and Google. 

Boredom is not an enemy to be conquered with information and lights. It is a state of being that gives birth to wonder.

two girls making a spaceship
Credit: Getty Images/Stone/Flashpop

Have kids read good fiction.

Not all books are created equal. Most kids like junk food and don’t know what is best for them. The same is true of books. Some books are the food equivalent of junk food. Not all fiction is created equal. Kids need to read stories filled with mystery, wonder, and virtue.

Each summer, I pick a classic work for my kids to read based on what they love or need. My desire is to teach them, through experience, what a good book tastes like. Then, through the stories I have curated for them, they will see the world differently and wonder at a God who made everything beautiful in its time. 

Ground kids in a community of faith.

If you want to teach kids to wonder at the riches of God’s salvation and the beauty of His world, proclaim the beauty of Christ. My first point was to allow kids to be bored. Truth and beauty in the context of community don’t have to be boring. It is so easy as a kid’s pastor to get sucked into the trap of endless entertainment where we make the goal of each week to outdo the week before. Do not fall for this.

Be a church that paints a picture of Jesus that captivates their imaginations and fills their hearts with wonder, and ultimately moves your kids to worship. Wonder isn’t an end in itself. Wonder should move us to worship. Be a church that proclaims the gospel to your kids over and over again. It is what their hearts need.

It is so easy as a kid’s pastor to get sucked into the trap of endless entertainment where we make the goal of each week to outdo the week before.

Praying Hands Kids Church
Image Credit: Wanna Pliansak/EyeEm/Getty Images

Pray more than we complain. 

As we get older, we tend to complain about many things. We complain about the state of our world, the number of screens around us, and millions of other things. Worry, disgust, and disappointment erode our ability to experience wonder at the God who saves.

No matter how old we get, we must never lose our capacity for wonder and our need for mercy. Our time and our influence are limited. It’s important to remind ourselves that the God we serve is outside of time, and His power is limitless. Stop and think about that sentence for a second. If God is outside of time and is limitless, there is nothing He does not know, and there is nothing He cannot do.

Our best move is to turn to God—not to our own knowledge or experience—and pray that He would do what we could never do for this generation. We pray that He would captivate their hearts, enflame their passions for Him, and fill them with wonder that would lead them to worship. 

Huxley feared the truth would be drowned in a sea of irrelevance. I pray that our kids will not drown in a sea of irrelevance saturated with information and entertainment. Instead, my prayer is that our kids will know the truth through the gospel, and their relationship with Jesus will set them free.

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  Updated on August 18, 2022

About the Author

Post Author
  • Sam holds a BA in Theology from Portland Bible College and is scheduled to finish his M.A. in Christian and Classical Thought and a M.A. in Biblical and Theological Studies. Sam has served in multiple roles at Redeemer Church, a multi-site church in upstate New York, for the past 23 years. From children’s ministry to campus pastoring to his current role as the Pastor of Families, Sam has a wealth of experience discipling kids, parents, and volunteers. Sam has served as chairman of INCM , co-authored The Eric Trap: 5 Things Every Leader Has to Get Right, been involved in several book projects, and has been blogging since 2007. His real passion lies in teaching the gospel, building and strengthening the local church through a multiplicand of disciples. Sam has been married to his beautiful wife for 22 years. Together they have 4 beautiful children ages 16, 13, 11, and 8. In his free time, Sam enjoys reading, writing, and, most recently, playing golf.

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