There is an art to children’s ministry. A balance must be struck between two opposing forces: fun and growth. Honestly, it’s a challenge, and no church strikes it just right. But we will keep trying and adjusting and improving, and with God’s help, a new generation will rise up to worship him.
When families visit your church they may verbally express a desire for their kids to grow spiritually (an honest plea from their hearts) but what they often don’t say that is also highly important to them is . . . they want their kids to have fun while at church. I know it is a crazy idea, but . . . kids like to have fun. And hopefully, your children’s ministry volunteers and leaders like to have fun as well.
So let’s do it! Let’s make children’s ministry a fun environment that kids look forward to. Churches are working toward this and achieving it. You see children’s ministry areas with huge slides, chalkboard walls, building blocks, goofy stage games, leaders jumping up and down and singing. But here comes the hard part . . . how do you keep that excitement and transform it into an opportunity to share deep spiritual truths during the limited time you have in children’s ministry?
Here are a few ideas that flow out of what we’ve learned, or are still in the process of learning:
1. Small groups are vital.
Small groups allow a leader to connect with kids on a face-to-face level. Group time allows them to get comfortable with a particular age group so they can ask questions and dig deeper.
You can still have fun even in small group time. We play games and make crafts on occasion during our small group time. This time allows the leader to know those students and know how they learn best, how they respond, and what speaks to them so that we can effectively use that time to be 100 percent intentional about teaching God’s truth and going deep.
2. Attach every fun activity to a purpose.
If we do something fun (which we do a lot), we are going to tie the activity back to a Scripture, Bible story, or big point of the day. We get loud, we laugh, we jump; but we do it with purpose. Every child learns in different ways, so we want to teach to every learning style through our Sunday kids worship time. We can’t expect kids to hear something only once and really take it to heart, so throughout a Sunday morning we reinforce that message continually in everything we do. Song, craft, game, small group, Bible story, object lesson; they all tie back in and reinforce what we are learning. We can have fun while still teaching deep spiritual truths.
3. Use separate spaces for fun and for deep.
This is not going to be possible for every church. It has a lot to do with the space you use in your children’s ministry area, but if possible – do it! Younger-aged kids respond especially well to playing games in one area, then moving to another area for small groups and lesson time. We meet in a movie theater – it’s fancy. We do not do this as much as we would like to but even the small bit of moving helps kids connect with how they are about to learn.
4. Be consistent.
At Grace Hills we like to change things up on a regular basis. In fact, it’s one of our core values that we stay fast, fluid, and flexible. Although it will probably always cause at bit of stress with my type-A personality, it’s okay. I love this value and God is stretching me. We purposely change things up regularly so that people don’t get too comfortable. But we still work hard to maintain a schedule within our rooms of fun, then Bible, then more fun, and more Bible. Sometimes we change it up to Bible, fun, Bible, and then fun.
5. Discipline matters.
This is a touchy subject, I know, but it does matter. Sometimes it becomes impossible to have fun in children’s ministry because you have children who can’t turn it off or cross the line every time you allow the kids to have fun. It happens. It’s hard. But we don’t want to discipline the whole group because one child cannot respect the rules and boundaries. If you don’t have a discipline policy, get one. It’s also important that parents are aware of it. Have it listed in a manual, online, or somewhere accessible to them.
It’s hard. Most churches are either too far on the fun side, or too far on the serious side and both have their disadvantages. At Grace Hills, we are working hard to strike the right balance. We are a church plant with lots of kids and lots of visitors. We want our kids to have fun, but we also want to take that fun and give it purpose.