Wednesday, August 15, 2012


It had been a long of "those" days of which children's workers speak in hushed, sympathetic tones.  The kids in our church daycare had been playing with all manner of toys and games, but it was time to clean up and do something calm. And quiet.

As the children were putting items in their proper places (more or less), one of the older girls (3rd grade, I think) approached me and asked why were we putting all the toys away.  While the un-spiritual side of my being wanted to snap, "Because I said so!", I just smiled and said it was time to do something else.  To which this wise young lady replied, "You know, kids gotta play!"

It was convicting, because my own fatigue was trying to overrule something I've known for a long time:  Kids need to play.  And giggle.  And laugh.  And have fun.

During my time as a children's pastor, we would set out "stations" for the kids.  Some of the stations were educational or related to the current lessons (activity/craft tables related to Adoration, Confession, Thanksgiving, and Supplication; a measuring line to see how far two Biblical cities were on a map, and so on).  Other stations were just there for fun.  We had board games, toys, and even a paper airplane station once in awhile.  Our stations time went on for about the first 15 minutes or so of our "children's church" time (along with a snack station called "Snack Shack").  Beyond the time constraints and minor, common-sense rules (walking feet, take turns, etc.), there was no structure or apparent organization (although the geek in me set things up with a very exact pattern and flow in mind...but, shhhh, don't tell anyone).

A few parents got a little cranky with us.  They would observe the beginning and complain to the board that children's church was too "chaotic." But the reality is that most of the children were doing exactly what they were supposed to be doing; namely, playing with games and toys, or talking amongst themselves.  Granted, there were always a handful of kids that were, well, a handful and in need of some redirection, but for the most part, stations time went exactly as planned.  It was fun.  It was goofy at times.  And I'm sure that more than once, a parent asked a kid what he liked best about his children's church experience and that kid said, "I got to play Operation!"  And I can see that some folks might be concerned that there is no spiritual content.

But what is missed is the sheer amount of ministry that happened during stations time.  Our teen and adult team members were also playing foosball, checkers, or even making (or demonstrating how to make) paper airplanes, but they were also asking the kids, "how was school this week?", "what do you like to eat for dinner?", "how'd you like that cartoon the other night?" and so on.  As they were building rapport and relationships with the kids, they were also ministering.  It always warmed my heart to see a team member in prayer with a child who had just shared a deep need or watching a kid's face light up when presented with a Bible after telling one of our volunteers over a game of checkers that she didn't have one.  It was unstructured, but not unplanned.

Kids are wired for fun.  Stations time was a fun time. And we had games that existed for no other reason than to get kids laughing.  Songs like "Making Melodies" were absolutely silly, but memorable.  And yes, I love to have kids laugh during the lesson.  Obviously, we aren't advocating unhinged, careless, free-for-all mirth.  There is a time to be serious...and if you work with children, you learn how to modulate your voice and tone and signal those serious times.  But while the fun and the laughter may look "chaotic" to some adults, don't forget that joy is one of the fruits of the Spirit too..  And like my friend said:

"Kids gotta play!"

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