I think that today is a great time to be in children’s ministry. In many ways we are laying the foundations for what children’s ministry is. To me this is exciting. Unfortunately it means there are issues that we are struggling with as we try to figure this out. Ultimately, what children’s ministry should look like depends on the individual culture of a church and community along with the unique gifts, talents, and calling of the leaders God sends. But, I think there are some things that are foundational to reaching kids for Christ.
Most of us are familiar with what is commonly known as “the F word” or the “F bomb”. Even though it has become fairly commonplace in the language of man Americans, it is still considered to be among the most offensive of cuss words to many others. In the struggle to determine what children’s ministry should look like, some have developed a new “F word” in relation to children’s ministry.
That’s right, FUN has become a bad word for many leaders in children’s ministry. Certainly they would not say that the word itself is offensive, but many have vilified the idea of having fun when reaching or ministering to kids. I would argue that fun is our greatest tool in reaching, teaching and discipling children.
Fun free zones. Recently I spoke with a woman in my church who works at a local elementary school. She talked about how the kids are told all day to sit down, sit still, and be quiet. Is it any wonder that kids have trouble doing the same when they come to church. Is it any wonder that we have trouble getting new kids to WANT to come to church. If we are doing the same thing they are doing at school, but with a different text book, don’t be surprised if kids misbehave, check out mentally, or stop coming.
It’s not ABOUT the fun. In fairness, there are some churches who have gone too far in the other direction. In attempt to get and keep the kids attention, they have become more about the fun and entertainment and are failing to teach the Bible in a serious and effective manor. I know that this is a tough balance, but our programs can’t simply be about having fun. Now, this is not to say that we should never have any events that are simply for the fun of it. I’m all for the occasional fun event. But, even with these the ultimate purpose is to provide an opportunity for the kids to fellowship and grow closer together and for them to have something to invite their friends to.
Fun is a TOOL. I don’t think I’ll ever forget what my pastor at a past church told me about fun. It was at the youth camp that my last church puts on every year. I was leading the team that did much of the cooking. In a lull between meals we were talking about camp and how much FUN the kids seemed to be having. He explained that if we could help them to have FUN and feed them well, then he could get in front of them that night and speak on whatever God was leading him to say and they would listen. You see, it wasn’t about the fun. Fun is a tool that gives us an opportunity to speak into the lives of children. This is, after all, what we really want.
Have Fun WITH THEM. Let’s face it most adults are way to serious. Some may even say that most adults are too boring. If we, as adults, feel that way imagine how kids feel. Something really powerful happens when we take time to actually have fun with them. Some of my greatest connections with kids have come as I was hurling a dodgeball at them or as I was dumping slime on their head, or letting them dump slime on my head. If you truly want to speak into the lives of children, play games WITH them. Certainly there are times when you can lead a game and not participate. There are times when you might set up a game and let the kids play amongst themselves. But, there have to be times when you are having fun with them if you ever want to connect with them.
Fun Factories. Kids are all about fun. It’s almost like food for a kids soul. Don’t believe it? Try this, put some kids in a room. Place a few objects in the middle of the room. The objects can be just about anything. Then watch them for a little bit. It may be awkward at first, but it before long the kids will take those objects and create some sort of game with them.
Play comes naturally for kids. It is simply part of who they are. If we want to reach them, it has to be part of who we are too. Besides, when they are having fun (in most cases) so are we. I can’t speak for every children’s ministry leader, but I LOVE TO HVE FUN. So, it’s a win, win, win – I have fun, the kids have fun, and I get to speak into their lives, – win, win, win.