Playing Church

What do you call the person who leads the children's ministry at your church?  Pastor?  Director?  Coordinator?  Maybe you should think about changing the title to "Director of Play."

The University of Cambridge has a new professor position that they're calling the "Professor of Play."  The Professor of Play will be the chairman of a new center for learning research that focuses on the importance of play and how playful learning can improve students' learning.

The foundation that is helping fund the research believes play has a critical role for children in learning.  They believe there should be more playful learning and less testing. 

Play helps kids focus on key skills they will need as adults such as collaboration, problem solving and generating ideas.  When kids play, they use their imagination to plan things, predict outcomes and problem solve.

Many churches have made the mistake of squeezing play out of their strategy to teach kids.  This is usually due to a lack of understanding of the value of play or a formal mindset that says kids should learn to "sit still and be quiet" at church. 

But the evidence that play-based learning has been building rapidly in the last 10 years.  The knowledge-based, heavily tested approach is being challenged by many education practitioners.  Play is being redefined and learning is being re-imagined. 

When you hear "kids playing at church," you may think this means wasting the precious time you have with them.  And I get that.   You want to make sure kids get a solid Biblical foundation.  And it is critical they get this.  For clarity, when we talk about "play at church" it is not about content, but about how the content is delivered to the kids.  It's about how we can most effectively help kids gain and use Biblical content. 

Think about how you can use play to help kids grasp and apply Biblical truth.  There are 5 basic types of play.
  1. Physical
  2. Symbolic
  3. With rules
  4. With objects
  5. Pretense
Take your lesson and think about how you can use these five types of play to help kids get it.  Let's use the story of The Good Samaritan as an example.
  • Physical play - have kids do a relay race to deliver the man who is hurt to the inn for help
  • Symbolic play - give kids a band aid they can put on each other and talk about how it's a reminder to help others
  • Rules play - use a game with rules that helps kids understand how God wants us to treat others
  • Objects play -  have kids use objects to act out the story
  • Pretense play - place kids in everyday situations where they have to act out helping someone else
Perhaps the job description for a children's pastor / director should include:
  • committed to helping kids learn God's Word
  • playful
  • curios
  • open-minded
  • imaginative
  • creative
  • eager to try new ways of learning
Here are a few questions to think about in regards to kids playing at church:
  • How do I view play at church?  A learning method?  Waste of time?  Time-filler?
  • Am I using play as a teaching method?  How can I improve this?
  • How can I help our volunteers see play is a great way to help the kids understand and apply truth?
  • How can I help parents leverage play at home to reinforce the lesson?
Your turn.  The floor is yours.  What do you think about playing at church?  How are you currently using play at church to teach kids God's Word?   Share your thoughts with us in the comment section below,