The physical environment of a children's ministry is very important. Apart from the volunteers, it is one of the top factors that helps a children's ministry grow.
Great facilities can make a children's ministry seem a lot better than it is and sub-par facilities can make a ministry seem worse than it really is.
Your facilities are making a statement to families. When you spend the time and resources to create kid-friendly, excellent facilities it says to parents, "We care about your kids. We've created a special place for them. We value your family."
My friend, Bruce Barry, has been helping churches create great environments for kids for many years now. Bruce is a creative genius and knows how to design facilities that cause kids to drag their families to church. He has been instrumental in helping me create great spaces for kids in several ministries I've lead over the years and has been a key factor in the growth of these ministries.
In the new book we wrote together, If Disney Ran Your Children's Ministry, Bruce shares 10 steps to creating great environments for kids. Here is an overview.
- the internet is a great source for inspiration
- type in words related to your theme such as Yosemite Park, under the sea, toon town or a Disney movie
- use words that best describe what you are trying to accomplish
- you are searching for a look and feel that reflects your thoughts
- print out all your favorites and lay them out
- you will find a pattern taking place
- gather a team to brainstorm with you
- keep an open mind - this will allow you to think of things you never considered before
- you will find your collective creativity creates an explosion of creativity
- the name should be something that best describes your theme
- the theme and name of your brand should be directly related
- sometimes you can work in reverse and create a theme based on the name you have
- once you have your name it's time to create a logo
- remember 1st impression is everything
- the entrance should scream "kids"
- ask yourself "is it easy for parents to find the kids' area?"
- have good directional signage - whether mobile or permanent, you need signage that directs parents and kids to the kids' area
- look at your space from a kids' perspective - stoop down - see it through the eyes of a kid
- make your theme immersive
- including characters in your design can help kids identify with your theme
- use characters throughout murals and wall coverings, signage, puppetry, etc.
- a check-in desk should be a focal point designed to function efficiently for the parents, with elements that will excite the kids
- make sure to create an area to register 1st time guests
- show a hint of what is to come beyond the check-in area
- once you've registered the kids, you are ready to enter their world
- there's nothing more boring than walking through walls that are just white or beige
- choose fun colors for your walls, doors and trim
- create emphasis on one wall by painting it a complimentary color
- for durability and longevity, consider custom-themed commercial grade wall covering, it's fun, vibrant and fade resistant
- create room signs
- make sure they look memorable and blend in with your theme
- signs can be suspended from the ceiling over the door or mounted next to it
- choose characters related to the room theme so kids can immediately recognize their room
- create excitement in your worship area
- whether it is a classroom, multi-purpose room or worship room, this should be your centerpiece
- collect or build props to be part of your theme
- there's nothing more impressive than adding 3D elements
- it will bring your environment to life and create the Disney factor
- it's time to make a difference in your children's ministry
- roll up your sleeves, gather your supplies and create like Disney
No matter your church size or budget, you can do something to create fun environments for kids. Churches that do this will reap the rewards many times over in kids and families reached.