Why we need good Christian shows for kids: A conversation with Minno founder Erick Goss

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Why we need good Christian shows for kids: A conversation with Minno founder Erick Goss

January 30, 2023 -

The Denison Forum Podcast discusses timely news and relevant topics with biblical insight. Hosted by Dr. Mark Turman and featuring Dr. Jim Denison, plus guests on occasion, this weekly, discussion-oriented podcast will help Christians further develop a biblical worldview on current events, equipping them to be salt and light for Christ.

The Denison Forum Podcast discusses timely news and relevant topics with biblical insight. Hosted by Dr. Mark Turman and featuring Dr. Jim Denison, plus guests on occasion, this weekly, discussion-oriented podcast will help Christians further develop a biblical worldview on current events, equipping them to be salt and light for Christ.

The Denison Forum Podcast discusses timely news and relevant topics with biblical insight. Hosted by Dr. Mark Turman and featuring Dr. Jim Denison, plus guests on occasion, this weekly, discussion-oriented podcast will help Christians further develop a biblical worldview on current events, equipping them to be salt and light for Christ.

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Erick Goss and Dr. Mark Turman discuss the importance of discipling young children and teens, why he founded Minno, a Christian streaming service for kids, challenging how churches neglect children’s programming, and ideas for how Christians should handle screen time with their kids.

Show notes:

Erick Goss begins by sharing his testimony, his time in Naval Academy, his struggle against legalism, and how he rose in the ranks at Amazon (2:01). He moves on to tell the story of how he co-founded Minno, a Christ-centered streaming service for children, how the Lord called him to complete dependence, and why gospel-centered media tailored for kids is so critical (15:53). Goss and Dr. Turman discuss why imagination is so important to Christian faith, what to expect on Minno, and why they include devotionals in addition to cartoons (29:14). Lastly, they turn to a crucial issue for parents: screen time. Instead of authoritarian, fearful rules, Goss recommends discussing media with kids and tailoring screen time to each kid for each age (41:47).

Resources and further reading:

About the host

Mark Turman, DMin, is the executive director of Denison Forum. He received his DMin from Truett at Baylor and previously served as lead pastor of Crosspoint Church.

About the guest

Erick Goss holds an MBA from the University of Michigan and an MA in international relations from Troy University. He was a helicopter pilot in the U.S. Navy and a spokesperson to the Pentagon. He held senior management positions at Amazon until he moved into the world of Christian media as the Co-CEO of Creative Trust Ventures. In 2018, he became the CEO and co-founder of Minno, a subscription digital media platform with a focus on supporting Christian kids and families. He and his wife Lisa live in Nashville with their three daughters.

Transcript

Transcribed by Otter.ai

Mark Turman  00:10

Welcome to the Denison Forum Podcast. I’m Dr. Mark Turman, Executive Director of Denison forum. Thanks for being with us for this conversation where we sit down and talk about issues of faith and culture and opportunities and intersections. Today we’re welcoming to the podcast, Eric Goss. Eric, would you like to say hello?

 

Erick Goss  00:28

Yeah. Hello. It’s great to be here.

 

Mark Turman  00:30

Yeah, let me tell our audience a little bit about you. We’re just now meeting together for the first time ourselves. But let me tell you a little bit of the formal background of Eric Goss. He is the CEO and co-founder of minnow, which is a streaming platform for Christian families. Originally from Kentucky, Eric graduated with honors from the Naval Academy. He first served as a helicopter pilot and then as a spokesman for the Navy Office of Information at the Pentagon. After completing his MBA at Michigan, Eric joined Amazon shortly after the company went public in 2000. During his seven-year tenure, Eric led the creation of what I’m sure many of our listeners will recognize as different parts of the Amazon world, the first ebook business print on demand, Super Saver Shipping, we thank you for that Eric, the Amazon credit card and oversaw North American book buying GaAs left Amazon and moved to Nashville in 2006, where he served as CMO of magazines.com. God says, helped to plant churches in both San Francisco and Nashville. And he and his wife Lisa live in Nashville with their three daughters. We’re thrilled to have you, Eric, and thank you for making time to have a conversation with us. And we’re grateful to make the connection. As we get started. Just wondered if you would unpack a little bit more of your personal background, what it was like for you growing up in Kentucky and maybe some of your spiritual background and testimony as well.

 

Erick Goss  02:01

Yeah, so I grew up in a small town in the middle of Central Kentucky, just south of Lexington called Danville, some people may be familiar with Senator college, it’s hosted the vice presidential debate a couple of times, right. And, but I, my family was nominally Christian, so they would actually send my sister and I to Sunday school, and then pick us up. So I never really attended church. And Christianity was just kind of part of the culture that I mean, I was grown up in the Bible Belt. And so but, you know, I think when I was probably when I was in high school, there was a part of me that well, as I was hanging out with kids, I mean, this is kind of classic me growing up is I was looking at the other kids getting baptized, and I’m like, Well, I know the Bible better than them. I you know, I was always a good student. And so I, you know, I went ahead and got baptized and then started going to church when I could drive because I felt guilty leaving after Sunday school, and and wanted to take my sister, and then when I’m with the Naval Academy, got invited to a Bible study with the navigators, and that was transformational, because I’d say, for me, Christianity was just kind of a part of what it meant to live a good life. And the idea of the Lordship of Jesus was really not even part of my how I thought about things. And I, my dad was really big into positive mental attitude, Zig Ziglar. And Dale Carnegie. And so I grew up with a lot of that, where there wasn’t really a sense, as we talk through that, that, you know, Jesus is the foundation of all that. But I was in a Southern Baptist church, I was just remembering this the other day, because someone was trying to explain altar calls to someone I go to a Presbyterian Church. And, and he was he was talking about it being an invitation. And I said, Well, where I grew up, it was more of a proclamation

 

Mark Turman  03:55

very much, because he,

 

Erick Goss  03:57

he was saying, you know, we’re inviting you up, and I said, Well, I was always present, it was more like taxes, like, like, the government invites you to pay taxes, but there are consequences if you don’t.

 

Mark Turman  04:09

That’s a pretty good way of putting it. Yeah, for sure.

 

Erick Goss  04:12

And so, but I definitely grew up with a pastor who was an evangelist, and but you know, I think when I, I started reading, the way New Testament, the New Living Translation, and because I felt bad that I didn’t know more about the Bible, when I went to buy to Sunday school, and as I read it, I’m like, being Jesus seems so different than what I hear at church. And and then when I was at the Naval Academy had a chance to be with the navigators. And really that, you know, it was intense. We did four hours of Bible study a week to be a part of the group. We did four hours of Bible study a week. We had to share the gospel with someone once a week, you know, pray every day, and Scripture memory and so and, and while there was definitely some legalisms associated with that, it created a really great foundation that the Lord used. But, you know, I was my mom was one of nine kids growing up in Eastern Kentucky went to one schoolhouse, I was the first college educated male in my family. And one reasons I chose the Naval Academy was because I just didn’t know how to pay for college, and really didn’t have anyone to kind of look to, to kind of guide me through that. And so it was a really kind of a life of first and being intimidated and overwhelmed by all that, but at the same time, you know, holding on to Jesus as well as I knew him at the time.

 

Mark Turman  05:33

Well, thank you for that. So tell us a little bit more. Many people are intrigued when we come across people who go to one of the military academy. So tell us a little bit more about that, and particularly, what it was like to live out your faith to grow in your faith and in what ways that you mentioned a moment ago, especially in the context of a military academy, that’s something that’s pretty unique in a lot of ways. So tell us about how you got on that path and what it was like?

 

Erick Goss  06:00

Yeah, it was, it was a really interesting, interesting experience. I mean, I remember the first day that I showed up, and I was hanging out with some other freshmen were called plebes. And so we’re off well, this was my hair cut back then. I had some here between then and there, but lost it. But, you know, I was 17. And very green. And I was hanging out with guys that were former enlisted, who had talked about you know, drinkin, and go into the strip club the night before. And I was kind of like, oh my gosh, what have I gotten myself into, and, and why recognized is, you know, there’s this, you’re in, you’re at the Naval Academy, which is a really a privileged place to be, but you’re also hanging out with just sailors, people who are in the Navy, and so and so you’ve got sort of this dual culture that’s kind of, that you’re living in. And then the other is, it’s, you know, it’s, it’s funny, because I sometimes joke, it’s like Bob Jones without Jesus. It’s a lot of rules. And, and, you know, the, the academy is notorious for, you’re taking your rights away and giving them back to you as privileges. And so, so there, you know, there was no music, which, you know, my teenage daughters today still struggled to understand how I made it through without music, and the fact that I would listen to music on a cassette tape at the time. But, you know, it was, it was definitely a different world for me. But I also was a very gifted student, and was very oriented towards leadership. And so it was a great place for me to go and a unique place where God could break me because I think I really struggled my first year, I thought about leaving the Naval Academy. And for a guy who had always done well in school was really struggling in school. And and that was getting involved in navigators, what I recognized, there was a sense of surrender that I needed to really embrace. And so it’s a different, it’s a different world, because of the subculture component of it, what I, what I often try to help people recognize is every culture accentuate certain things. And at the Naval Academy, there’s an accentuation of the rules, and then authority, top down authority, and so that immediately build certain types of resistance. And so you get sort of this duality of you’ve got sort of this top down hierarchical culture, but then you also have, you know, a culture of we used to say, you rate what you skate, which is, you know, anything you can get away with is okay, and so and so you, you get to see legalism on steroids in many ways. And then you’re doing it within this environment of really, really hard academics, and really, really demanding schedule. And for me, personally, it was probably an amazing place to break me and put me at a limit where I’m just like, Lord, I don’t know what to do, I need your help and guide me. The other component that is unique and different is and I’ve seen this as a alumni, when I go back, you’re with, you’re with a group of people, like if you go to a regular college, everyone’s going to have different set of beliefs and stand for different things. And sometimes they’re going to be massively, you know, counter polar opposites. Right at the Naval Academy. Most people are there because they believe in the country, they believe in democracy. There are certain values that they hold dear. And you know, granted, we’re all college students. So you see people holding to that to differing degrees. But it’s been interesting for me to see the people that I graduated with. And going back on reunions, it’s really a remarkable group of people, where there’s a real sense of center, there’s principles that they hold dear. And they stand for things and you don’t necessarily see that in the general population or at a regular college. And so there’s a sense that certain things are true. And I think as you get older, you have a real appreciation for that commitment to the truth and that these things are more valuable than other things.

 

Mark Turman  10:01

Right. And that creates a unique sense of unity and camaraderie that you’re not going to find everywhere else, obviously. And from the standpoint of authority in a military academy, there’s, there’s a necessity of what they’re teaching you in terms of a top down authority and and the emphasis on rules. Because in that, that context, right, it’s necessary to accomplish what ultimately the military academies are all about, which is the preparation of soldiers and sailors for really hard work. And likes it creates a unique kind of community that many of us outside just stand in awe of, with, obviously a great deal of deep appreciation as well. And I wouldn’t be surprised at all if every first year plebe really thinks about leaving at some point. That seems to be consistent in all of these stories about the military and military academies of what did I get myself into? And can I survive this? Right?

 

Erick Goss  11:01

Well, a funny story. I remember. I remember coming home for Christmas, so grateful to be away from the Naval Academy. And I was hanging out with all my friends, and they were all so desperate to go back to college because their social lives revolved around college, right? Yeah. And I was like, wow, what would it be like to actually want to go back to the Naval. And I remember walking in, I remember walking in and going to my room and as a plebe, you’re squaring corners and walking straight lines, you have to everything has to be at 90 degree angles. And my other roommates started walking in one was from Louisville, and the other one was from Buffalo, New York. And, and I think I may have been the first one said, Man, I just don’t know if I want to do this. I’m just tired. And then my friend from Louisville said, I know I don’t want to do it either, like Screw this place. I don’t want to do this. And then my friend from Buffalo is like, let’s just quit. And we’re like, well, we’ve made it this far. Why don’t we just all do it together? Sort of misery loves company, we’re gonna suffer well together, just to get through the second semester. So anyhow, it was a unique experience.

 

Mark Turman  12:05

Yeah, that’s got to put a college kids home for Christmas, right? They’re like two weeks in, they’re hoping they can go back and you’re hoping for two more weeks to get to stay home. Right?

 

Erick Goss  12:15

Absolutely. Absolutely. Yeah. Well, I

 

Mark Turman  12:17

was looking, you have a very interesting career path, obviously, involving the military, with helicopters kind of withstanding, as maybe the outlier is, is the common link of your career path. You just like to communicate and you like to communicate story? Well, is that the link?

 

Erick Goss  12:39

Interesting. I’ve never had anyone make through or draw that conclusion. Um, yeah, you know, there is a, there is a strong communication component to who I am as a person. And, you know, I think one of the things that’s very important to me, and one of the reasons I love minnow, is this idea of how do you create meaning and other people’s lives. And I was a good helicopter pilot, you know, I was above average for my classmates, but I was I was really good spokesperson at the Pentagon. And I think one of the things I recognized as just really gifted communicator. But I’m one of these guys. That’s right brain left brain. So I work well with creatives. But I also work really well with engineers and love sitting down with my CFO and digging into a spreadsheet. And, and but but I think, above all, that it’s what are we communicating to the world? And what are we doing to help people’s lives improve? And, and, you know, I kind of look at my life almost in sort of three major initiatives or waves. The first was, I want to participate in fighting the evil empire, the, you know, the communist regime. And so I want to go, you know, I was the Top Gun class at the Naval Academy. And there was more, it was the most selective year in the history of the academy primarily do the movie. And, but there was a sense that, you know, we are there to defend democracy. And then when I left in the military, and really wanted to, like, get involved in business world, I was very enamored with what Jeff Bezos was building at Amazon and this idea of transforming ecommerce, I loved books, and loved media. And so the idea of going to Amazon to be a part of transforming the way people bought books, and bought media was really extraordinary. And I was really motivated and excited about that. So

 

Mark Turman  14:35

yeah, so Is that Is that to say that you love all forms of communication and particularly as we get to kind of the background and story of where Minno came from. Do you just like communicating great story, and and? Well, that people’s lives? Yeah,

 

Erick Goss  14:52

yeah, that’s actually because the third third stage of this has been recognizing the importance of the gospel and the importance of dots. discipleship, and specifically child discipleship. And my co founder and I, when I first started working with him, we wrote down a mission statement for our partnership. And it was to make transformational ideas practical through story. That was really what we wanted to do because we what we both believe is the best ideas are often the most poorly communicated. And and so if we could essentially serve as publicist for transformational ideas, to help people better understand the good stuff, that would be a life well lived.

 

Mark Turman  15:37

So tell us, tell us how minnow comes into creation as you’re a decide to move at least halfway across the country almost all the way across the country from Amazon into Nashville and to start a new idea. So tell us the startup story.

 

Erick Goss  15:53

Yeah, it’s it’s, it’s messy, as a lot of startup stories are, I wish it was a little cleaner. But you know, at a high level, I’d spent seven years at Amazon and had a good run. I really felt like the Lord calling me out of the company, and to look at what I could do to take really a Christian point of view on leadership, and infuse that within a corporate environment. And the one thing I recognize at Amazon is think companies are top down, like you set culture at the top. And I was at a point where I was probably I would know, I was being considered for executive leadership. Because the day I submitted my resignation, I was supposed to be having a lunch about being promoted to be the Director of books at Amazon. And so which was a surreal experience, and, and what I just felt like a passion that I wanted to be deployed for the kingdom, I’d help plant a church in downtown Seattle, and just recognize there’s a huge need for people to really understand the gospel, our family had been through a very difficult time because I played a role in sort of managing pretty significant church conflict. And the idea for our family, we had a 18 month old and my wife was pregnant, to be able to stabilize, be closer to home closer to family was good. But then when I got out here, I was Chief Marketing Officer for a e commerce company magazines.com, and was approached by my now co founder Dan Raines about doing something in faith in media. And I recognized like, I loved media and pop culture. I love technology. And I loved you know, helping people better understand the Bible. And so he was a manager in the music business managing Chris Chapman, and then also was a literary agent. One of his clients was Phil Fisher, who created VeggieTales. And Phil approached Dan with the idea of of DVD series called buckden, for escorts in the Bible. And I saw what he was doing this was post VeggieTales, and was really knocked out by it. I was like, This is amazing and help people understand the Bible. The challenge was how to get it funded. And I had never really raised money in my entire career for anything. And so had had to raise some money for some independent films, working with Dan, and then we had a major Christian publisher involved. And as they got involved recognized, they were really struggling with how to market it. And because we’d raise capital, for some other movie projects, I suggested that we raise capital and buy our distribution rights back from the publisher do it independently. So we took that 13 DVD set and marketed it directly to consumers into churches. And it was modestly successful. But in the process, we had parents saying, hey, the Christian retail store that I used to go to, to figure out what to buy for videos and DVDs is gone. Because my former employer played a role in sort of decimating the Christian retail industry, brick and mortar. Right. And so and then we also had a number of creative similar to Phil reaching out to us saying, Hey, would you do for us what you did for Phil help help us find funding and help us with the commercialization of our intellectual property. And so as I thought through that, what I recognize is this sounded a lot like the early work that I’ve done at Amazon around digital media platforms, that there’s a market here where you’ve got demand, and you’ve got supply, which typically, when you have that type of environment, you can create a platform. And so that led us to building a platform called Jelly telly. And we had our investors who are in what’s in the Bible helped with jelly telly. But as we were scaling jelly Telly, it was pretty clear no one had really had the appetite or the stomach to basically take jelly Telly to kind of full scale. And so I ended up working with a mentor of mine who’s now my chairman, who I’d met known for a number of years. He basically said, Hey, why don’t I come alongside? We’ll help you buy the assets and let’s set up a new comp I mean, and when we did that, one of the things that I was really passionate about is what could we do to create a platform, not just an entertainment platform for Christian kids, but what could really help connect families to Jesus every day. And so the name men Oh is based on the Greek word meno, from John 15, where Jesus is talking about a binding with him. And the idea was, we really wanted to create a platform that facilitated kids abiding with Jesus every day, as well as their parents. And I’m a big believer that kids have significant influence over their parents. It used to be, you know, parents took kids to the movies, now, kids take their parents to the movies, and take them to church, often taking the church also. And so, and I had no I had noticed in the church plants had been involved in that when we were super intentional with children’s ministry, it had an impact on the parents spirituality, because the kids would go home and ask questions, and the parents would feel bad, right, and feel like they’ve got to elevate their parenting game. And so and, you know, if you look at the numbers, and again, I’m a big strategy guy, what I looked at is, you know, I was involved navigators love, adult discipleship. But if you look at the numbers, more than 60% of Christians became Christians before the age of 14, right. And then two thirds of kids who grow up in the church leave the church when they go to college. And if you ask them what they believe they couldn’t tell you. And so what I recognize is, there’s this massive Kingdom opportunity, massive church growth opportunity that if we could keep 50% of those kids who walk away, and we could help kids actually really understand and expand the number of kids who are getting impacted by the Gospel before the age of 14, it might be the best church growth strategy on the face of the planet. Right? Key is, it’s not sexy, because it’s kids. And you know, and typically, when you’re in a church environment, the the budget for kids is small. And, and the focus is on adult ministry. And so, and I actually think that’s the challenge that we have, because there’s a sense that, even as we’re raising capital, and as we’re working with partners, there’s a sense to dismiss it as kids cartoons, when in reality, I look at as some of the most strategic human work that can be done. And it can be transformational not only, not only in the kids lives, but in the lives of parents. And we’ve seen that where parents, most people think parents are actually, you know, who go into church or on top of it, but most of them are biblically illiterate, in our in basically in the interviews and the research that we’ve done. And so what we find is, parents actually love the platform, because they’re watching a lot of our programming with their kids. And it’s having a transformational impact, not just in the kid’s life, but in the life of the entire family

 

Mark Turman  22:47

is is a part of the challenge, you think, especially in a digital environment, we talk it at Denison forum, across our various ministries that, you know, the next great awakening that we’re hoping for, that we’re praying for in our part of the world, where the culture would significantly shift into a kingdom mindset and with crisis, the center that that might be actually catalyzed by what digital technology and everything makes available to us. That what we might see as a, an awakening that is driven by technological capabilities and realities that God might redeem it in that way and use it in that way. But do you wonder, is it sometimes the case when when dealing in the space of trying to both evangelize and disciple children and their families through their children, that is sometimes dismissed either digitally and in a local church context, because there are elements in which it has to be built around fun, because that’s what kids are all about. And that’s what kids are. It’s, that’s the wonder of being a kid is that it gets to be fun. And, and especially anybody that is familiar with Vicious Fareed, VeggieTales, and all that it, okay, it’s fun. And, and a lot of churches have discovered in many ways over the last 2030 years, if you can communicate biblical truth, deep, significant biblical truth, in an enjoyable fun context, you can hold on to the kids, right? Absolutely. But But But parents sometimes want to dismiss it, because we’ll just look, as you said, looks like cartoons. Yeah. Where’s the substance and it is sometimes hard to help investors, adults, to see the substance that is in this context of trying to serve children.

 

Erick Goss  24:42

Absolutely. And again, I don’t think anyone dismisses the challenge of the importance of good programming for kids. Like there’s a sense that people but I’d say good is not well defined. Now, one things we’re challenged with right now is the mainstream studios haven’t really embraced progressive values. that are completely antithetical to the Bible.

 

Mark Turman  25:03

Right? Nickelodeon and Disney

 

Erick Goss  25:05

and they’re being right and and, you know, if you look at you kind of look at the Hierarchy of Needs of Christian parents, the first perspective is I want to protect my kids. And so which means I want my kids to get exposed, I don’t want them to get exposed to bad content. But the second is, I want my kids to get exposed to content that can actually help them grow as adults with, you know, the gospel being a part of that. And so, you know, as we’re, as we move forward, I think there’s a sense that people don’t really know what’s possible with children’s content. And what’s interesting is the closest thing to a catechism that the evangelical church has is VeggieTales. More people can probably tell you, you know, seeing the lyrics of where’s my hairbrush then can tell you the first question and answer the Westminster shorter catechism. And so, and there’s a reason for that. And that’s because it’s fun. It’s enjoyable, it’s memorable. And so, and again, I think there’s a simple, it’s easy to misunderstand the complexity associated with great kids content, which is it has to be fun, fun is the native language of kids. But then the second is it has to have a education component. And so you’ve got to be able to teach. But then the third is it has to be developmentally appropriate, because kids are concrete thinkers, and where and this is where Christians get this wrong all the time, is Christianity is very conceptual. And and so the key is how do you make these very deep spiritual truths practical in the life of a kid, and what I love about kids is they really can take you to task, they can hold you accountable. Hey, that’s way too complex. But But I think I heard a creator say this, once that, you know, we have a tendency, we overestimate what parents can get and underestimate what kids can get. And so there’s a sense that as we’re forced to communicate biblical truths to kids, we actually are getting through to parents and, and, and so there’s some complexity there. But the reality is, we don’t focus on it, because kids aren’t necessarily advocating for themselves. And so, you know, that’s one thing that’s unique about our platform is we really think of ourselves as kids first, nothing is more terrifying. I can say this, again, people don’t have this experience. But nothing is more terrifying than being a creator. And then getting doing kid interviews on your show. Now kids think about your show. Cuz I mean, they are tough critics, man, tough critics.

 

Mark Turman  27:30

And so and no filter when it comes to honesty, right? No Filter. We love

 

Erick Goss  27:38

So, but, you know, I just think because kids aren’t necessarily advocating for themselves. And again, we have a perspective of entertainment being a babysitter or something that you do to pass time. Not that it can actually be a tool that can end it that can inform imagination, and really transform how a child looks at the world. Even though we have evidence of it all around us. When we look at even in our own lives, how certain shows or certain things that we did inspired us or are helped us understand the world a little better.

 

Mark Turman  28:09

Can you speak a little bit some of the work that I’ve done as a pastor, particularly in just continuing to learn about best ways to communicate from a preaching standpoint, work with with the likes of people like Warren weirs, B, who passed away not long ago, this, this idea that the imagination, the human imagination, is the most powerful screen there is on the planet next to God’s imagination, if you want to go that way. But the idea of conceptualizing biblical truth that if you can get it to become an image within the imagination of any person, child or adult, you’re able to implant that or inscribed that within a person in a way that is the way that it will stay with them. Because we may speak in Word, but we think in picture, is that a big part of what is behind the creative element that you’re trying to use?

 

Erick Goss  29:14

Yeah, there are two different ways I would kind of just to think about this. So the first is, if you talk to any adult Christian, who is now who I’d say is faithfully walking with, with Jesus, it is rare that they started walking with Jesus at the age of six, and figuring that out. Typically, there’s often some kind of transformational thing that’s happening in their 30s or 40s. And oftentimes, you have people who come to Christ in their 20s and 30s. Right. And I went through an experience where I was on the verge of bankruptcy when I was 48 or 49 years old. And and I was doing like good work for the kingdom. And there was a sense of, Wow, how could go I’d allow me to get to this point when I’m doing something good on his behalf. And I had a very wise mentor basically say, Well, you kind of got what and why, like, what you’re trying to do something great for the kingdom and why you’re, you’re wanting to follow God, but your house completely messed up. But you’re not doing this by God’s means you’re doing this by Silicon Valley, West Coast technology means. And that floored me because I had never even thought twice that God cared about how I was thought, like, what and why. And and what I recognize is, at what point in my life would my life look a lot different had I gotten exposed to those biblical truths, and really, to the nature of God, and how he wants me to walk with Him. And that could have happened at 18. That could have happened at 16. That could have happened eight, that could have happened at four. And so but how does that happen? And most of the time, unless you’ve got super intentional parents, and there are a number of super intentional Christian parents out there, but most of them are like me, which is, I know, Jesus, I love Jesus. While I’ve got kids, how do I talk to them about Jesus. And so what I recognized is having good media can really serve as an amplifier to help parents imagine what it’s like to be able to teach their kids spiritual truths. Because again, nope, every parent is the best parent in their kid’s life. But not every parent is going to be able to know how to communicate spiritual truths and the most effective way for their child. We can bring in experts and great creatives and storytellers to help with that. And then parents are basically released, they are liberated, to actually be the spiritual heroes in their kids lives that they longed to be that the second is, there’s a guy named Charles Taylor, who wrote a book called The secular age, who talks about social imaginary. And that it when we’re talking about culture, and we’re talking about competing ideas, there’s this idea of a social imaginary of what what is actually possible with one’s life. And you start thinking about the good life, like what’s the best way for me to have a good life, I grew up thinking the American dream, that, you know, I wanted to make a lot of money, be rich and give money away and be a good guy. And but Jesus wasn’t really a part of that. I mean, he may have been a small party, but he’s definitely not the center. And but Where’d I get that idea? I got that idea from books that I read, and for media that I consume, and the idea that I could live a life surrendered to God. I’m like, I didn’t encounter that till I was in my 20s. And I like that is foreign. And that is weird. But you know, now I’m reading. I’m reading George Mueller’s biography. And for folks who don’t know, George Mueller was a guy who created an orphanage in Bristol, and Bristol, England, for the purpose of actually demonstrating the power of God and His promises. And I read that today. And what it does is it it shows me the things that he’s trusting God with, that I’ve never even contemplated trusting God with. And so what it does is it’s creating this whole new faith landscape for me, as a as a 54 year old. Well, the thing I’m convicted by is what if we raise up a generation of kids who have the fact that God can actually work powerfully in their lives, because they’re getting exposed to media, where they’re seeing the lives of saints that’s transformational in society, transformational in families, or just giving them the ability to trust God when hardship happens in the family versus going to self reliance, right. And so for me, I’m a guy who was schooled and self reliance. And I, you know, I spent the first half of my life learning how to be as independent self reliant as I can. And I will likely spend the last half of my life learning how to break all that and become dependent on the Lord. And so the idea of man, if my children can not get the dose of self reliance and get schooled and self reliance in the way that I did, and actually learn God dependence, what’s going to be the impact on their life? And so, you know, there’s one sense where Minos simple, it’s children’s media. But there’s another sense where there’s a real passion behind it from our team, of what can we do to help people experience the richness of the gospel, and to trust God for amazing things in the world in regards to his kingdom? And what does it mean to seek first his kingdom and to trust him for that? And that’s why like, I think about men. Oh, that’s what I get so passionate about.

 

Mark Turman  34:35

Well, and you think you mentioned the just the power of, of what we can imagine in the fact that we still use a term like the American dream, right? Yes. And and that you just simply have to say that simple phrase, and it is basically commonly understood by, you know, the better part of 330 million people and even a larger number than that outside of this country, they still understand that phraseology, and the image that starts to come into their mind. And there are certain kind of fundamental values attached to it, like you said, self reliance, responsibility, being progressive and being successful, there’s there certain elements of it that would be common to everybody’s imagination. And, and trying to come to a kingdom image that Jesus articulated and that Jesus told stories about that Jesus performed miracles about right. Is, is, if I understand you, right, that’s the direction we’re trying to go. So if somebody is encountering minnow, for the first time, through our conversation, tell us a little bit what are they going to find? Start off, this is the website. And here’s the things that you’re likely to engage. And what do you want people to see and, and find their way in initially when they come to this?

 

Erick Goss  36:03

Yeah, so there are a number of ways to encounter minnow for the first time. So we have a website, go meadow.com, geo mino.com. And we offer a seven day free trial so people can sign up for the service on the website. We our app is on all mobile devices and smart TVs and or you can watch it over the web. And when you log in, you’re going to see the one of the world’s largest collection of VeggieTales. So most people like to start there, they know it. But there’s a lot of Christian shows that people are not familiar with. And so their shows like Bible man, which some people grew up on the live action Bible. There’s an animated version that now that’s quite popular. There’s their shows like friends and heroes their show, like I mentioned, Buck, Denver asked what’s in the Bible. But we’ve got some new shows that we’ve been creating. One’s called Micah super vlog, which is a 2d animation show, about a fifth grade boy and his friends and misadventures with biblical truth, which is a lot of fun. And then we have launched a new Bible animated show called The Laughing grow Bible for kids. We have a an award winning Children’s Bible called the laughing grow Bible for kids. It’s written by Phil Vischer. Who did VeggieTales. We’ve taken that Bible and we’ve taken to video. And the unique thing about the way that Children’s Bible is structured, is there are 52 Bible stories is probably the most complete Children’s Bible in regards to going through the meta narrative of the Bible. But you can, we just launched our Christmas episodes, and we’re just about to launch our Easter episodes. And so we’ll have a good collection when parents come on, if they grew up with some programs, there are a lot of folks that will see shows that they grew up on like McGee and me. But you’re also see some news shows like allegories. It’s relatively new. And like I mentioned, but they were asked what’s in the Bible. And then VeggieTales has continued to create new episodes. A lot of people don’t know this, but they actually produced a number of new episodes probably about three or four years ago. And we have all those on the on the site as well. The the a couple of features that unique, what makes us a little bit different than other services is you can also find a couple of things. We have the minnow day show, which was informed by our minnow church at home where we basically took sort of best of shows to create a 30 minute show for parents to be able to do church at home. And we’ve turned that into a half hour TV show called The midday show. And then we have the five minute family devotion. And so we have probably about 155 minute family devotions at this point. And it’s primarily based on on a dad fail my dad fail of doing devotions with my kids. And then also hear hearing from parents. You know, devotions was like a four letter word, every everyone was really struggling. And so I would be there with a Children’s Bible. And then I’d have my app and I’d screencasts and stuff. And I have a prayer book. I was like, Oh, this is just not great. And and I’m like, all this amazing content on then. Oh, and so I, I talked to my team, I’m like, let’s do something five minutes for parents teachable moment. Just press play. And then you’re good to go.

 

Mark Turman  39:05

Well, good, good on you for trying to be multi dimensional in your family. devotionals. Right. And, and this idea, somewhere, we communicated the idea in the last 25 years or so that, you know, simply taking your family to church and praying over your meals was just woefully inadequate for any kind of spiritual direction. And in some ways it is but it’s also a really good practice as well, to at least start there.

 

Erick Goss  39:30

Right turn theory. Absolutely. So good foundation.

 

Mark Turman  39:34

Yeah. So our our ministry in recent days has spent a lot of time talking about technology. He’s talking about screen time. One of the things that we seem to come across in our research consistently is that parents today are in some way over protective of their children in a physical out of the house. Real world kind of way there are almost, in some cases petrified but very anxious about their children going outside or going into the larger world, but they are, by Trend anyway. not careful enough when it comes to the digital world have their children. And obviously one of the reasons that a ministry like yours exists in the first place. But there’s an irony here of a lot of work that we’ve we’ve pursued in the last number of months, talks about the problem of screen time and having your child having yourself having your family just addicted to one screen or another. And we there’s a lady named Jean twig who wrote a book called IGN talks about these kids, you know, are spending six to eight hours of completely disposable time in their phone in their screen, she may have been the first one to use the term screen ager for that purpose. So it’s kind of ironic, we’re talking about a streaming platform that’s producing an offering really great content from a biblical perspective, but it’s also putting people back in front of a screen. Yeah. So can you from your perspective is working in this space? What’s your perspective about screen time? And have you on a personal or career level? dealt with the issue of screentime? How do you talk to parents about that? And how do you how do you encourage them to use your tool but not overuse it? And to use technology like this in a really helpful way, but not? Not in an abusive overuse kind of way?

 

Erick Goss  41:47

Yeah, no, it’s a really challenging question. The hard part for most parents is we want simple answers and simple rules, right? And, and as I always say, you know, the rules for your family aren’t going to be good for my family, because my family is my family, and your family is your family. And so I think each family has to work through this together. And I feel like it needs to be spiritually informed. Oftentimes, we’re more dependent on rules than we are on the Lord. And that’s where I always feel like this is it’s a spiritual question that we have to ask the Lord for guidance. Now, part of its ages. So do I have young kids or do I have older kids? Man, that was primarily set up for kids from birth to 12. And, and typically, when kids are getting probably in the 10, nine to 10, range, sometimes even earlier, they’re making a lot of screen time choices on their own. Because of the way devices are, and to your point in regards to in the external world, we have a lot of control over where our kids are, because it’s it’s physical, and digital, it’s so challenging, because the I mean, I used to work for both of us companies, we spent, they’re spending millions of dollars and hiring the best people in the world to see what we can do to get as much stuff in front of someone as possible. And on most of the platforms, that includes kids. And and the challenge is when the challenge is on Netflix, like Susan, Netflix, watch their kids category, who’s making decision about what’s appropriate for an eight year old, and, and what’s appropriate for one eight year olds, not appropriate for another. But Netflix doesn’t do that they have one size fits all, what’s appropriate for an eight year old, you two, which is challenging, because we know about YouTube kids. But the reality is, most kids programming is viewed on YouTube, which means there’s advertising involved. And YouTube is a wild wild west, like you just have no idea what your kids are going to get exposed to. And granted, YouTube’s trying to work on that and be more diligent, but the platform itself, because of the way it monetizes, they will not sacrifice monetization for Child Safety at the end of the day, like that’s always going to be attention, and they’re going to, and granted, they’ve made decisions. And I don’t necessarily agree with all of those decisions. But it’s always gonna be challenging. And we’re on YouTube and expect to be on YouTube more. But I think it’s really, really tough. The industry is working almost in opposition to what parents want because of economic incentives. For young kids, I think screen time limits are super important. And and you’ve got to think through that. But screens themselves. I think you have to be careful about this, because the example I give is like I was my undergraduate degrees in computer science, and I spent a lot of time in front of screens as a kid, because I love technology. And the question is, was that screentime good or bad? Like some of it was video games, but the video games led me into how video games were made. And so that led me into coding. And so I think it’s important to understand what the impact is. And then I’ve got like, I’ve got three girls, each one of them deals screens a little bit differently. And so I had to be sensitive to what how the content that they were watching and consuming impacted them. And again, I think really important to limit screen time in young or kids. And then as kids get older, I think it’s important for parents to partner with the kids to understand what are they watching and what’s appropriate. And again, it’s super challenging. I have a computer science undergrad, I live in technology. I teach digital marketing at Vanderbilt, business, schools and adjunct. And nothing is more crazy to me than putting screen time limits on my kids and fixing the router. And, you know, not everybody’s got some with my expertise. And I find it challenging. So I, I think it’s important, but one of the reasons we’ve created Meadow was not so much to prevent screen time, but to make screen time count in the lives of kids, and to see what it can do to be a tool. Like as you’re talking about digital media. I’m a man, I’ve looked a lot at philosophy of technology. And you know, there are some writers Shaka Lu, who is a 20th century writer, French philosopher, theologian, Albert Boardman, who’s written on this, which is technology is a means it’s a means for things. And so means can be used for good that can be used for bad, certain technology or means our bias towards bad versus good. And some technology means are biased towards good versus bad in regards to how we look at biblically. And so I think, as a parent, I have to ask myself, what means or why am I using this technology? Why am I using it? And and then how’s it affecting my kids? And so like, I have one child who actually approached me and said, Dad, I think I’m getting too much screentime because I just emotionally she was she was in her tweens. She’s like, I just, it bothers me, I don’t want to be around it. And I said, Well, let’s talk about that. And, and but what’s interesting is, we had a conversation around it. And I think, parents, what struck me was how she had so much wisdom about herself, and what was going on. And I think we often feel like and this is something I’ve had to learn. We often think we’re raising kids, we’re not we’re raising adults, and and giving our kids the ability to discern and engage in a dialogue about discernment in regards to their own habits is a huge gift. Because they’re recognizing, oh, this has an impact on me. And there are consequences from my behavior. When we set rules, the whole goal is am I living to the rule? Or how do I get around the rule, when I understand why the rule is there, and can have a conversation, a dialogue around why we’re doing this, there’s a sense that my child is actually taking ownership for their life and understanding it. And then as kids get older, and again, I think every family has to kind of figure out what’s right for them. But I love media, I love movies. You know, as I always say if if Steven Spielberg’s parents limited screen time, would we have Steven Spielberg. And so you we have to recognize screens is the is the world in which we’re operating in. And my kids are, they’re in high school, they’re homeschooled. They are part of a tutorial. And what I recognize is there are some families that are almost anti media. And and what I think what’s hard about that is that media and popular culture is the language in which our kids will be operating in. And I want my kids to be adept, and discerning. And so like, we do pizza Movie Night, and there are times that we would watch movies that I think some families would say that’s inappropriate. But I look at his opportunity to expose my kids to things that they are going to be exposed to as adults, in a safe environment where we can dialogue about it, and we can engage about it. And so I look at media as a very powerful tool. But for dialogue and for my kids to grow into discerning adults. But there has to be something that’s engaged has to be managed in. And it’s something where I’m parent actively parenting and building out a relationship. And again, the hard part for parents and I’m as guilty of this as anyone else, is the simple thing is to create rules and enforce rules, right? Harder thing is to engage in dialogue discussion and find out what’s going on. How are my kids responding to it? How am I reacting, I’ve had one major social media fail with Mike with one of my girls. And, and what I recognized is, you know, we put discipline in place, talk to her about it. But now she’s you know, she’s 15. And, and using social media, but thinking about it so differently. Like she actually is interested in it as a potentially as a career. And so we talked about it, and we’re engaged in it. And it’s something where I think as your kids get older, what you want to make sure is they don’t feel like they have to do things in the shadows. And I think if you can talk to your kids and things can be exposed and the other thing I encourage parents to do is your brokenness in your life and your mistakes in your life can be one of the greatest gifts that you give your kids if you talk about it openly and honestly, because most kids are really struggling thinking that they need to be perfect and when they You recognize you struggled the way they did, there’s a sense of, Well, Mom and Dad are trusting God and me. And my kids are like me. And if dad made some major mistakes,

 

Mark Turman  50:10

there’s, there’s a, there’s a kind of a built in intimidation factor may not be true all kids, but it seems to be true of most kids, which is, I do want to please my parents, I don’t want to disappoint them, which sets them up to hide when they’re struggling or when they failed. And, and to the degree that as, as parents at appropriate places, right, where you can show your own clay feet, show some of your own brokenness, your own weakness and struggle, you become more real and, and the standard of living up to some perspective or idea of perfection starts to get more realistic, right? And, and less intimidating for them. Because, you know, I, even today, both of my parents are deceased, but I still have this idea. I want my parents to be proud of me, whatever it is that I’m doing, trying to achieve that type of thing. I would want them to be pleased. And that that stays with us in a very strong way. And you can you can see it in a lot of stories that get told at every level. Right?

 

Erick Goss  51:22

Absolutely. And Mark it even as we’re having a conversation, like one of the most fascinating conversations for me was talking to my six year old when one of my girls was six, how much media is too much media for you. And you know, should you not have any media at all, like it was a fascinating conversation. And I was like, shocked with how, how, why she was and how she was navigating this. And so it’s interesting, kids actually have a pretty informed point of view. And then as they get older, they’re seeing their friends. And they’re like, I don’t want to be like that. Because you know, when I’m around that person, they’re never paying attention to me, or they’re always distracted watching a movie or on social media. So there’s a sense of, in talking to our kids and developing shared convictions, it reminds in part, this is highly informed by my experience a Naval Academy, and then also being an executive leadership. If I tried to impose rules on people without talking to them about those rules, they never owned them. Never. It’s always something to navigate. And they’re either managing around or doing it for the purpose of getting, you know, social kudos. But if I say, hey, what’s a good rule? Like, what do you think about this? Do we want to set this up as a value in our family or just set this up? As a rule? That is a guideline? Yeah, Dad, that sounds actually like a really good idea. I agree with that, that there’s like, Nah, let’s I don’t like that. Well, why don’t you like that? Well, this is why I don’t like I hadn’t thought about that. And so there’s a sense of engaging in that conversation again, that’s where the spirits working to because again, we have a tendency to think Holy Spirit’s in me, but not working in my kid’s life, because we just don’t think about it. And kids have a spirituality Holy Spirit’s working in their life, too. And so there’s a sense of discerning what is God doing in the life of my family as he’s moving through the members of my family, and specifically in the lives of my kids,

 

Mark Turman  53:03

right. And what I try to get when I get to this conversation, I try to remind myself as well as to remind parents read a book by Thomas Friedman, a few years ago, called thank you for being late part of what he talks in that book is that technology, particularly what we experienced around 2007, the advent of cloud computing, the ability to have high speed broadband, internet connection in our pocket, and for it to be ubiquitous. He liken that to the discovery of fire. Okay, and if that’s true, if he’s in any way accurate about that, just trying to imagine in your mind when fire was first discovered, and all of the experimentation and failure and learning and discussions that went into Oh, okay, well, we don’t want we don’t want or we can’t make this thing go away. But how do we need to learn to use it? How do we learn to manage it for its most productive ends? Because it is a means to some amazing ends, what we’re able to do with technology we’re able to do with streaming platforms educationally. In all different categories, we just have to come to the realization whether it was fire, the Gutenberg Press, the television, the radio, the computer now, the internet and computing, these things aren’t going away. And they do an enormous amount of good, but like anything that can be used for good it can also bring negative and bad effects. So we have to learn under the wisdom of God and with each other’s help. How to use these things. Well, right? Absolutely. I mean, you know, I have two grandkids and um, you know, I can watch how my daughter is trying to Teach her four year old to manage things like your platform. And, you know, when when she gets to engage with a tool like minnow, yes, she, there are certain things that happened to her she’s zones in, she pays attention, she wants to know the story. And there are certain things that are hard to change when she’s in that moment. But they’re also very careful about, hey, we don’t do this. Every time we turn around, we’re using this very strategically, it’s a part of our family. It’s a part of our parenting. It’s a part of the, the overall strategy we have for spiritual development for our child, but it’s not everything. It’s a it’s a strategic piece. And there are a lot of pieces. Because just like in many other aspects, there is no one magic bullet. And parents, and and all of us for various reasons. Look for the magic bullet about anything in our life, right?

 

Erick Goss  55:59

Oh, absolutely. We all want simple and easy. Yeah.

 

Mark Turman  56:03

But simple and easy, usually doesn’t produce the greatest kind of character and person that we’re looking for

 

Erick Goss  56:08

right now. It doesn’t and and Mark, I’m reminded, as you’re talking, so much of it, I think about the life of our family, you know, what’s God have to say about this? What’s the, you know, in all these questions, there’s a sense of bringing them before the Lord and talking to your kids about, you know, what, what would the Lord have to say about this. And it’s interesting, because, again, oftentimes for parents, which really tough is when your kids are in their teenage years, I always say, it’s tough because they’re, it’s so important for them to leave you that basically build their own identity. And so part of that is finding what are they going to resist that you represent? And And often what I found is media can be very effective if they’re things that I want them to understand and get a hold of having media sort of serve as a medium, where they are actually talking about what they’re observing, versus talking to me about what I’m trying to teach them. And it facilitates great conversations. But there’s always this dialogue that we can have of, you know, what do we think the Lord would have to say about this? Or what do we think and again, I find that that’s a really good way to work through and navigate these issues, even when kids are young, because they still have a strong sense of what God’s committed to. And and the other thing is you find out if whether or not they know God’s committed to it or not.

 

Mark Turman  57:35

Yes, absolutely. Eric, it’s been great to talk with you today. Give us again, the website. It’s go men. Oh, right.

 

Erick Goss  57:43

Yeah. So you can if you go on the web, we’re at go meadow.com. That’s GOMI. Nn, o.com. And then if you go into any app store, you can search for men, oh, kids, and you’ll find us there.

 

Mark Turman  57:57

Well, thanks for that. Thank you for what you’re doing to try to help people, especially children, to abide in Christ to live their whole lives focused and centered around Him as King and the Kingdom that he is building. We just thank you for that. Thank you for the opportunity to get to know you and to get to know about the work that God has put into your hands. We pray for God’s favor on you in every way. Thanks, Mark. I appreciate it. And thank you for listening to today’s Denison Forum Podcast. If this has been helpful to you, please share it with others and rate us on your podcast platform that will help other people to find us as well. Thank you for being a part we look forward to seeing you next time.

 

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