Why Church Should Be a Play Day for Kids

"Kids should learn to sit still and be quiet in church."

"Stop running around the room."


"This is not a playground."

"Stop talking and listen to me."

Did you hear those words growing up in church?

Have you ever said those words to a child?

I'm reminded of the two little boys who went to the church with their grandfather to decorate the auditorium for Christmas.  Soon they began to race around the auditorium and their grandfather scolded them.

"You shouldn't do that, boys.  This is God's house."

The little 5-year-old looked up innocently and said, "Doesn't God like little boys, grandfather?"

The grandfather stopped to ponder the question for a few seconds and then signaled for the boys to carry on with their playing.

Here's what I believe about this in one sentence.  Church should be a play day for kids.

Let me preface this by saying this is not about WHAT we teach kids at church.  It's about HOW we teach kids at church.  I believe like never before, it is vital that we teach kids what we believe and share with them solid Biblical truths that they can build a strong faith foundation on. 

But HOW we teach those truths should be facilitated not by tradition, but by how kids learn best.

Research shows that kids do not learn best by sitting still and being lectured to.  They learn best by PLAY.  Play helps kids develop in all areas - physically, socially, emotionally and cognitively.

There are so many ways you can bring play into the teaching process at your church.  And the play should always have a purpose.  It should tie into the lesson and be used to teach kids truth.

Here are a few examples:
  • Dramatic play - acting out Bible stories, creating life application skits, making paperbag puppets and using them to act out the lesson, etc.
  • Competitive play - review games, memory verse races, etc. 
  • Constructive play -  putting together a craft, building something that ties into the lesson, putting a Bible verse puzzle together, etc.
  • Cooperative play - playing with other children and volunteers to complete a task that deepens their relational connections.
  • Solitary play - an activity that a child does alone that points them toward self-reflection and a deeper relationship with God.  This might be a guided prayer activity, a meditative reflection, etc.
Some well-meaning churches have the mindset that kids are engaged in play all week, so church should be a time to pull away from play.  But the truth is, play is on the decline.  According to a recent survey, 56% of parents say their kids spend less than an hour every day playing outside - which is less time than prisoners in a maximum security prison spend outdoors!  75% of parents say their kids play less than they did when they were kids.

Then let's make Sunday a play day.  A day when kids can come and learn the great truths of the Bible with the method they learn best through - play.

What if we created environments that kids looked forward to coming to?  Perhaps they would come more often.

What if we taught kids through play instead of lecturing?  Perhaps they would remember more.

What if we stopped making kids sit still and be quiet in church?  Perhaps they would grow up to make some noise for God in the culture.

What if we made our churches the place for play in our communities?  Perhaps more parents would bring their children to church for a "play date" and we would see their family transformed in the process.

What if we made church an active place for kids?  Perhaps we'd see them more active in their faith.

What if we gave kids opportunities to play together in our lessons?  Perhaps we'd see more meaningful relationships formed.
Maybe the reason kids grow up and play church as adults is because we didn't give them opportunities to play at church when they were kids. 
So, here's the challenge.  Gather a group of kids together and ask them this question.  Better yet, ask them individually.

How much do you get to play at church?

Take the response you get, sit down with key people on your team and talk about these questions.
  • How can we bring more play into our lessons and programs?
  • How can more effectively use play to teach kids God's Word?
  • How can use play to create environments that kids look forward to coming to?
  • How can we use play to help deepen relationships?
One last thing to keep in mind as you are creating play opportunities at your church.  Remember, kids are inundated with technology all week.  They are engaged with video games, cell phone games, tablets, laptops, television, NetFlix, etc.

Because of this, they are looking for opportunities to engage in hands-on, non-technological play.  Simple play like board games, races, building blocks, etc. are very appealing to them.  Swap out the video games at your church for old school, hands-on games.  Because it will be one of the few places they can find this, they will really enjoy it.

Your turn.  The floor is yours.  Do you think Sunday should be a play day?  Share your thoughts, insight and ideas in the comment section below.

p.s. If you're looking for more great ideas to bring more play into your children's ministry, check out our book "If Disney Ran Your Children's Ministry."  It's full of ideas on engaging kids in play with a purpose.  You can get it now at www.buildingkidmin.com.