by Gigi Schweikert
Think about all the places designed for children in today’s world, places where children go – playgrounds, amusement parks and stores. There are lots of eye-catching, exciting things for the children to do and see; probably a bit too much. Now, we do not want to create a church that is an amusement park, but church should be exciting, too! Can you think of anything more exciting than God’s creations and eternal life through Jesus Christ?
A Child-Friendly Space
By developing a child-friendly space in our ministries, we help children learn that:
- God is good and “His house” is a good place to be.
- They are safe from harm.
- Worshipping God is fun.
- There is a special place in God’s house for them.
- God values children and wants them with Him.
God’s House for Children
We often refer to a church as God’s house. As most of us know, God’s house is not a church or a building or even a place, it is a group of believers. With that in mind, we will all agree that one of the most important things about our children’s ministry programs should be the relationships we have with the children. So why even worry about creating an exciting environment, when our loving arms should be enough? In a sense, yes, but we only have two arms and there are lots of children to love. By setting up a safe, child-friendly environment, we can spend our time developing relationships with children, talking about the love of Jesus Christ and not just managing a large group of children while we are anxiously waiting for their parents to return.
Children’s Ministry Environmental Do’s and Don’ts
How can you make the environment exciting for children? Here are a few ideas of what you can do and some things to avoid.
Do: have colorful pictures and photos intended for children.
Don’t: hang them too high for the children to see.
Do: label shelves with pictures and words showing children where toys and materials belong.Don’t: have dusty and unorganized shelves.
Do: have defined play areas all around the room.Don’t: place children’s equipment and materials in one corner causing crowding
Do: place toys on shelves or a few out on the tables or on the floor for children to choose easilyDon’t: pile toys and puzzles in boxes or storage containers making it difficult for children to select something to do.
Do: fix or remove broken toys or ones that have missing piecesDon’t: use broken toys or materials that have missing pieces
Do: eliminate clutter and piles of paperDon’t: put off cleaning and organizing your space
Do: get on your knees to see what the environment looks like from a child’s perspectiveDon’t: design your space from an adult’s point of view
Do: use sturdy bookshelves and furniture to create small group areasDon’t: push all the bookshelves and furniture against the walls so that your space is uninteresting and leads children to run
Do: sit and play on the floors with childrenDon’t: have dirty floors and carpets, that is where children spend the most time
Do: have child size tables and chairs for childrenDon’t: expect children to sit for long periods of time
Do: rotate toys and materials each monthDon’t: forget that you can make familiar toys more fun by playing with the children, making suggestions and asking questions
Do: display pictures of children and their families as well as their work where all can seeDon’t: forget to change your displays and bulletin boards regularly
Can you make the children’s first experiences learning about Jesus positive by loving the children and creating an exciting environment? With the help of God, of course you can! “It is God who arms me with strength and makes my way perfect. 2 Samuel 22:33.”
Gigi, columnist for Children’s Ministry Magazine and author of thirteen books on parenting and ministry, is an internationally recognized early childhood expert. Gigi directed the United Nations Early Childhood Program in New York City and hosted the television show Today’s Family. www.gigischweikert.com