ALL ABOARD! at Spring Baptist Church in Spring, Texas where the original train-themed preschool annex and play area are a huge hit for families. Here the theme reflects their mission statement: “Train up a child in the way he should go. Even when he is old, he will not depart from it” (Proverbs 22:6).
Churches large and small are opening themed environments and custom play attractions, borrowing elements from amusement parks, and experiencing an increase in both attendance and memberships. The play areas are designed for families of all ages to enjoy, and have transformed the way these churches reach the next generation. Ultimately, more kids want to attend, families feel valued by the church and the ministry grows.
Churches are searching for programs to integrate visitors and new members, and innovative ways to increase membership. Those that are adding these family-friendly features have discovered one key to connecting to members and the community.
“We have seen about a 10 percent increase in young families under the age of 40 which is reflected similarly in our preschool/children areas,” said Mark Harrison, Spring Baptist Church. “What excites us the most about our play area is how it has changed the atmosphere. It is not an uncommon sight to see families taking pictures of their children by the scenes. The playroom pieces are also a huge hit. Our play area allows us to showcase our preschool ministry to visitors like never before, because they recognize the importance we place on our kids. This has helped change the attitude of workers and parents alike in a positive way.”
The big impact isn’t just for large congregations. The Kidventure themed environment installed at Second Baptist Baytown in Baytown, Texas proves that smaller churches can minister just as effectively as large churches. Their amusement park themed area has created a cool environment for children while parents attend church.
“We experienced a 35 percent increase in overall attendance—nursery, preschool and elementary age,” said Ruth Charlson, Second Baptist Baytown. “The increase is attributed to the new facility environment which includes new spaces, great décor, state-of-the-art security/check-in system and a super location.”
Searching for a way to boost memberships, Humble Area’s First Baptist Church decided to install Kidzone Adventure to introduce kids to Jesus and help them develop a personal relationship with Him.
“We opened our new children’s building and had a 10-15 percent increase over the next six months in preschoolers and children,” said Cathy Lane, Humble Area’s First Baptist Church. “Our indoor playground has been a huge draw to the community. We offer open play days when the church is open and not being used by ministries, allowing anyone from the community to play. That has been a huge hit as many unchurched families come through our doors to play and get information about our church. We know of several who are now members, first learning of our church by coming to the playground with a friend.
Clearly, the development of these themed environments and play attractions demonstrate the potential in churches across the country to experience resurgence in ministry. These examples undoubtedly show that churches can have a distinct advantage in attracting new members and presenting their messages to children, as birthday parties are proving to be one of the most effective ministry outreach tools.
“We have seen a definite increase in the attendance of our children’s ministry since the addition of our new children’s facility,” said Justin Williams, children’s pastor, Shreveport Community Church. “Overall, since the completion of our new children’s facility a year ago, we have seen an approximate 30 percent increase in children and 70 percent increase in children’s department volunteers. We also see hundreds of new faces each week in our café and playscape areas. We do about 10 birthday parties per week at our party facilities, 80 percent of which are not from our church or school. “
Shreveport Community Church has seen a marked increase in visiting families at church services and overall church attendance. They are still trying to nail down the actual percentages, which is a challenge for a good reason—they have added a second campus and asked members to help get that started. They hope to follow the same formula and build a children’s facility at that campus as well.
“I would attribute all these gains to the obedience of our church leadership to making considerable investments in children’s ministry,” said Williams. “There is excitement generated in everyone who walks through our doors when they see our fabulous facility. It gets a “wow” from every new person that enters … even now, more than a year after completion.”
There is much to take into account when considering a new environment and a distinct difference in designing spaces for a ministry versus entertainment center. With so many options available, good guidance is imperative. Partnering with a trusted advisor who has experience both in creating play environments and children’s ministry can help make the decisions for your project less complicated. Here are some items to think about before getting started:
- Who is your audience? A church has specific needs and a specific audience. Age ranges you want to attract can determine the best environment for your needs. A trusted advisor can help with the planning process.
- What features do you want? There are many features that can be integrated into a play area. Does your church want to integrate its mission statement into the theme? Do you want slides? How about a climbing wall? Consider features for a wide age range. Younger children have different needs than older children, who need more challenging elements.
- How do you create the best environment based on your needs? Themed play environments entered the scene this decade and have continued to gain momentum. As technology changes, so do the features available. Play structures combined with a maze of tube crawls, bridges, slides, electronic effects and soft foam elements create the ultimate family experience. Churches are able to create custom play environments that engage all of the senses, giving children an exciting experience while providing invaluable learning opportunities.
- How do you create a safe and secure environment? Safety must be a primary consideration in any play area. That is why new design considerations are being incorporated to ensure the safety and security of children. Enclosed platforms keep children protected. Safety flooring and clearance incorporated around the structure help to avoid injuries. Controlled access, organized check-in/check-out procedures and background checks on all volunteers should be implemented on facilities large and small.
If efforts in expanding your congregation have been challenging or if you are struggling with innovative ways to increase attendance, contact a company with experience in creating themed environments and play attractions for churches and let the fun begin.