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Photo by Kathleen Barry, United Methodist Communications

Garrett (right) and the Rev. Jacob Armstrong get acquainted during taping for the new advertising campaign The United Methodist Church will use this year. "Live Childlike" is the theme. It will appear on print and digital platforms and cable television.

New ad campaign features words of children

By Joe Iovino and Laura Buchanan
March-April 2017

Parents and elementary school teachers often praise the wisdom of children. Each day, teachers see how easily children make friends, then take one another's hand and head off for the playground. The depth of their children's prayers often surprise moms and dads.

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The innocence, wonder and hope of children will be at the heart of The United Methodist Church's advertising campaign in the United States this year. Through the words of children sharing their thoughts about open hearts, minds and doors, the denomination is extending an invitation to people searching to give their lives deeper meaning.

The advertisements feature elementary-aged youngsters answering questions such as, "What does it mean to have an open heart?" The children's inspiring answers reveal what seems to be a special connection with God. They know things many adults seem to have forgotten and often reduce complex ideas to their simplest, most profound truth.

Through children's eyes, voices

"This campaign encourages us to pause and see the world as young people see it," said Dan Krause, general secretary of United Methodist Communications. "The openness and loving spirit that children offer to their communities can be the perfect invitation for people considering a visit to their local United Methodist Church."

The "Open hearts. Open minds. Open doors." tagline has been part of the denomination's advertising and outreach efforts for 16 years. The new ads ask viewers to ponder what life would be like if everyone loved with open hearts, minds and doors as children do.

When describing what it means to have an open heart, viewers will hear Lilly share, "You're open to love anybody that needs it, because a lot of people in this world need to be loved."

"When people have an open mind," Alisyn teaches, "the world could be a much different place, if everyone just gave each other a chance."

"An open door," Trip adds, "is going one step further and saying, ‘Oh yeah! Come on in!'"

The ads conclude with a statement of hope and invitation: "We believe that together, through God's love, we can make it happen."

The first set of ads – running now through June – focus on the core values of The United Methodist Church and will continue with messages about Easter, love and kindness. The ads are running across the United States via print, digital platforms and cable television.

From their hearts

The Rev. Jacob Armstrong, pastor of Providence United Methodist Church in Mt. Juliet, Tennessee, interviewed the children drawn from United Methodist congregations in the Nashville area.

"What we've been going for is something that's not packaged, something that we didn't create and feed to the kids," Armstrong explained during the taping, "but just came out of their hearts."

In the advertisements produced at the United Methodist Communications studios, the children show things about God adults might have forgotten. They impart wisdom about love, serving others, friendship and miracles. Also, in addition to speaking about how to live into the church's aspirational promise of "Open Hearts. Open Minds. Open Doors," the youngsters teach about the meaning of Easter and Christmas.

"To see God's love through the eyes of children is a wonderful experience," said Jennifer Rodia, chief communications officer at United Methodist Communications. "You can see that God is real in children. Sometimes as adults, we lose sight of the fact that God never leaves our side."

Adapted from articles by the Rev. Joe Iovino, web content manager, and Laura Buchanan, public relations specialist, at United Methodist Communications in Nashville, Tennessee.