The moment a child walks through the doors of a church, they can sense if it’s a place “for them.” In fact, the environments we prepare for children can be one of the tools we use to help introduce them to the Gospel. Intentional environments can communicate that they are welcome, they are expected, and that they are in a place where someone has thought about them. Today we have some ideas on how to create fun and memorable spaces for kids that they won’t soon forget.
Look Through Fresh Eyes
Although kids may not be able to articulate what exactly makes an environment “their space,” they certainly can tell what doesn’t. Putting some time and thought into a space for children’s ministry can help families feel more at ease and generate anticipation and excitement before they even enter the room. Before changing anything, it’s a good idea to put on some fresh perspective and walk through your space as if you are a first-time visitor. What attracts your eye? What are you drawn to? What makes you look away or lose interest? Is there anything that helps you to know which room is for the kids? Is there anything that feels scary? If possible, take some kids along with you on this assessment and ask them for their honest feedback. Kids love to share their thoughts, but sometimes we are too busy to ask for them. Starting from a place that considers their perspective and opinions is a great way to open our eyes to their experiences in our ministry spaces.
The first place to start when evaluating a space is the lighting. Is the space bright and cheerful? Most kids hate the dark, so we know to avoid the obvious things like having them walk into a dark room. Beyond that though, lighting can change the feel of an environment almost instantly. What was once just ok becomes fantastic. Small spotlights, inexpensive stage lighting, or even something fun like a disco ball can help brighten up an otherwise boring room. Getting creative with lighting can help kids feel the room is safe and inviting.
In an environment where there is some freedom over choices, bright colors can completely change the feel of a space. Think neon walls, colored rugs, chairs in fun colors. Kids love to have something visually interesting and this can help make it memorable, too. Bright colors can make a small room feel larger and a room painted in a way that invites kids in can be a huge asset to making them feel welcome. Mixing up each wall with a different color can also serve as a way to identify teams during games. We call that a win: win!
If the environment does not allow for a change in paint color, another way to create a welcoming space is with stage props. These can be anything from painted pieces of large cardboard to elaborate sets with a lot of details. Having something unique on the stage creates a sense of anticipation that plays off the natural curiosity of the kids. A fun, quick, and easy way to add fun to any room? Balloons. Balloons can serve as decorations, add some color to the room, and even be useful for games. Balloons fit into almost every budget and clean-up can be super easy if they are sent home with the kids. These giant ones are some of our favorites!
Any time you can add details to your classroom theme, it will help get the kids excited. Doing a Superhero theme for the month? Throw in some Superhero material for the prize table, cityscapes for the check-in area, and have all the volunteers wear capes. Simple and easy details that promote the theme will help the kids engage their imaginations and become immersed in the environment. That excitement will help them remember that the space was prepared for them in a way that felt like they belong. That feeling helps us to connect with the kids as we share with them the message of the Gospel.
Regardless of how much time, money, or creativity goes into an environment, the theme of a room will inevitably become stale after a while. Changing things up can help the kids to regain some of that initial excitement. If the budget is low, doing things like rearranging the furniture or switching up the schedule can help keep things fresh. Super tight budget? Rotate the specific themes and props between classrooms. The goal is to help the kids maintain a sense of curiosity about what comes next.
Engage Social Media
Almost all parents are on social media. Sometimes the kids are, too. If permission has been given to photograph and post, social media can be a tool to engage families and hopefully grab the attention of others to come, too. Sharing pictures of the fun games played during the day or even perhaps the more serious moments of worship or prayer helps families understand a little more of what happens in the classroom. Sharing those memories with the church family can help new families to know what to expect. That can also be the first step to getting potential visitors to know their kids are welcome.
The most important element to creating a fun and memorable environment for kids is making sure Jesus is there. Preparing the environment also means preparing our hearts. Spending time with Jesus beforehand will help to prepare us to communicate His love to the children. Asking volunteers to come a few minutes early to spend some time praying over the room can be an amazing experience for not just the kids, but for the volunteers themselves. Seeing how God can work and move through what we have prepared can be the most humbling experience and helps us to remember why we serve in the first place. Want to take it one step further? Ask the kids to pray for your time together before you start.
Rachael Groll shares from the heart as she serves those around her in Meadville, Pa. You can connect with her on her blog, http://shehears.org/ where she shares free tools and resources to point others to Christ.