An interview with Ann-Margret Hovespian,author of Truth & Dare (One Year of Dynamic Devotions for Girls)and Jeremy Jones, author of Triple Dog Dare(One Year of Dynamic Devotions for Boys)
Q: Truth & Dare and Triple Dog Dare devotions are two new books targeted to pre-teens 9-12. One books is for girls, the other for boys. What inspired each of you to write devotions for pre-teens?
Ann-Margret: I've always had a special place in my heart for outreach to preteen girls and I think that devotionals are a great way to connect with God's Word. I believe God really inspired me to combine my passions and talents in a way that could touch the hearts of girls.
Daily devotions are crucial in the spiritual development of young girls because Scripture and prayer are the best ways to connect with God. Many Christian girls are involved in youth groups or listen to Christian music or watch Christian movies but sometimes those things can distract us – even adults – from personal study of Scripture and quiet time with God.
Jeremy: It was great to work on Triple Dog Dare for boys as a companion book to Ann-Margret's Truth & Dare for girls. It was fun to take the general concept of a book for boys and blow that up into the multiple dimensions of the action and activity of their lives.
The goal of Triple Dog Dare is to help boys engage with God in ways that bring their hearts and heads and hands together in real, everyday life. It's a fun, action-oriented book that helps an active or adventurous or artistic or musical or whatever boy gets hands-on with his faith in the ways that resonate with his interests and gifts. It shows boys that the Bible is far from boring—it's alive and action-packed.
Q: How is Truth and Dare different from other devotionals?
AMH: Truth and Dare is different because it aims to make the Bible active in the lives of the girls who read it. More than just getting them to read their Bibles, Truth & Dare shows them, in practical ways, how to apply the lessons they learn in their everyday lives.
There's a real take-away value to the daily devotions as the reader is challenged to do something about what she's just learned. It's about more than just reading and meditating on God's Word; it's about putting it into action, almost immediately – that day or that week.
There's also lots of space for journaling about what they've learned or experienced through the devotions and activities, as well a dozen or two true stories and testimonies of real girls, illustrating some of the lessons in the devotionals in a way that the readers can really relate to.
Q: What types of dares are boys given?
JJ: There are a lot of them—about 780 overall, and I tried to limit overlap as little as possible! Some general ones are to write a story or a song or make a movie based on a particular theme. There are a lot of drawing or art-oriented dares. Some are to build something like Noah's Ark out of Legos or act out a Bible story with action figures—or act it out with friends. There's go for a walk or run and pray along the way. Take a technology fast for a week without the iPod or game console. Interview someone you respect about a lesson they learned. Memorize a Bible verse. Volunteer with your family at a food pantry or homeless shelter. Do 25 pushups every time you complain. Talk to a kid at school who nobody likes. Make a Christmas giving list before your wish list. Make a list of goals. Serve an elderly neighbor by mowing their lawn or snow-shoveling their sidewalk. It goes on and on.
Q: How are pre-teen girls different from younger girls and older teens?
AMH: It's such a special age – they're not little children, but they're not yet teenagers and nowadays that age group has its own special set of challenges. There can be a bit of an identity crisis because they want to enjoy being a kid but also feel pressured to look and behave like a woman. It's confusing.
Marketing specifically designed to target tweens is stronger than ever before so these unsuspecting young people are vulnerable to all kinds of messages about materialism, sexuality and, basically, looking out for themselves above anything else.
Q: How do boys learn differently than girls?
JJ: You can get into a lot of scientific research with that one, and I don't claim to be an expert on all the complex neuroscience. But generally speaking, boys like to do and move and get hands-on. They tend to do better when they can move and physically engage with the subject material, whether that's building or constructing or acting out or competing to work with their visual-spatial strengths. That's not true for every individual boy or girl—there are plenty of girls who would rather move and create instead of sitting quietly at a desk.
But Triple Dog Dare plays to boys' general ability and preference to keep the sitting and reading short and to emphasize the getting up and going and doing by taking the daily Triple Dog Dares—to get their hands dirty and realize God goes with them in every single activity and part of life. He's way bigger than the four walls of a Sunday school classroom. He's right there in the commotion and action and adventure of a boy's life.
Q: What types of topics are covered in the daily studies?
AMH: Everything from dealing with conflict at school to missions to respecting one's parents to self-esteem and knowing God in an intimate way. The book addresses peer pressure, forgiveness, purity, sharing one's faith, inner beauty, and much more. A lot of these topics are approached in a lighthearted way, for example starting with a fun object lesson about nature or science or a quiz or puzzle, while others may dive right into the Scripture and what it means.
The weekend chapters cover several interesting portions of Scripture such as the Ten Commandments, the Fruit of the Spirit, the Armour of God and so on.
Q: What is included in each day's devotion?
JJ: First, don't miss the Flip Animation in the lower righthand corner. If you flip quickly through the pages, the pictures come to life as a little animated movie. It was the designer's idea but it's one of my favorite features. It's perfect for the theme of getting beyond the simple pages of a book and making faith active and fun.
Every weekday of the year you get ...
· one Bible verse or passage.
· a Truth that gives a one sentence summary of the theme
· some short thoughts (2 or 3 short paragraphs) about a real-life situation or connection to God.
· three Triple Dog Dares—ideas to put the theme into action.
· two Mission Accomplished questions so you can write down your results from yesterday's dares. The weekends are a little different and a little more varied.
· Make Triple Dog Tracks give ideas to make something cool, like a movie, comic strip, or life list.
· From the Triple Dog Pound deliver short stories about guys in the Bible who accomplished God's Triple Dog Dares—plus ideas of how you can do the same.
As you can see, there are lots of ways to give a boy ideas and challenges to run with and go on great daily adventures with God.
Q: How do these devotionals encourage pre-teens to put their faith into action?
JJ: The hope is to challenge and guide tweens to dive into the Bible, then take all that's there and dive into life. Boys reading it will begin to see that "Hey, this Bible stuff, this God stuff is about every day, everything in my life. It's not just stuck on a shelf or applicable only for Sundays or church."
There's something for every boy to really connect with and realize that the gifts and skills God has given him—the everyday stuff like school and sports and art and music—these are all ways to connect with God and worship God and reflect glory back to Him through those things that make his heart and emotions come alive. Forget Bible-boredom. Faith is an adventure!
AMH: After each day's devotionals, three specific challenges are presented to get them thinking about practical ways they can put what they've just learned into action. My hope is that by the time they get partway through the book, they will have gotten into the habit of seeing how they can apply Scripture in their daily lives.
Truth and Dare: One Year of Dynamic Devotions for Girls by Ann-Margret Hovsepian
ISBN: 978-1-4347-0208-1/384 pages/paperback/$14.99
Triple Dog Dare: One Year of Dynamic Devotions for Boys by Jeremy V. Jones
ISBN: 978-0-7814-0457-0/384 pages/paperback/$14.99
David C Cook/October 2011 www.davidccook.com