Starting with why a church should have multiple services this article rafts through a variety of topics. Under “Padded Cow” came a discussion of children’s classrooms at church.
As you walk in the building, you quickly spy the “launch zone.” Mom checks you in, you get a name tag, and then you hop onto a bright orange slide that swirls you around and around until you pop out in your classroom. And it’s not just any classroom. The carpet has solar systems and stars, the ceiling is dark purple, and a 7-foot-tall spaceship is in the corner. Behind you are some ball-throwing activities and a large penguin in a spacesuit. You see moving lights and a planetlike stage with a star field—made to seem real by twinkling fiber-optic lights.
In another room, a 30-foot-long metal airplane structure hangs from the ceiling. The chairs are set up on the landing strip, and the teachers wear purple camouflage pants. The control tower at the back of the room has Nintendo machines for early arrivers.
The nursery resembles a train station, complete with a train-car changing table. The preschool room is the Construction Zone and features a two-story, partially built building. Kids wear playful hard hats and watch puppets in the customized construction trailer.
Two-year-olds go to The Farm. They have their own farm-tractor slide, garden, and recessed seating for Bible stories. And when you walk into their room, you’re greeted by a life-size padded cow.
Are we describing a children’s museum or library? Nope. It’s the All Stars Children’s Center at Granger Community Church, a dream born from a desire to have a high-impact, interactive, and engaging children’s ministry. We wanted a space that shouts “We love children!” and causes kids to bring their friends to church with them. (Check out the photo gallery at www.gccwired.com.)
Several underlying beliefs led us to the decision to make our children’s rooms a priority:
• Belief 1—Kids matter to God. They’re making decisions that will determine the course of their lives. Statistics tell us that most spiritual life decisions are made during childhood.
• Belief 2—Kids learn better in spaces that are engaging and child-friendly than they do in institutional or neutral-colored rooms.
• Belief 3—Parents care about their kids. They want them to have great experiences. That’s why they spend thousands of dollars taking them to Disneyland every year.
• Belief 4—The potential for life change in parents during a church service is in direct proportion to how well they believe their children are being cared for. If they have any anxiety about their kids, they won’t be able to focus and may miss what God wants to do in their hearts.
• Belief 5—The pastor cannot compete, regardless of his or her oratorical ability, with the undeniable cuteness of a child. Providing a great space for kids—somewhere else—enhances the experience for every adult in the auditorium.
• Belief 6—Volunteers are more likely to serve children in a room that is fun, engaging, interactive, and exciting than they are in a room that’s boring and drab. Why? Because they don’t feel like they have to bring all the fun and excitement with them; it’s already built into the environment. They can just offer themselves.
A highly engaging and effective children’s center doesn’t have to cost a lot of money. If you make the commitment to develop kid-friendly space, the creative people in your congregation can do a lot with colors, patterns, and textures.
Start with the commitment, do what you can, and add more later. The padded cow can be a goal, but you can start with a painted mural of a Black Angus farm. (Is it obvious that we live in Indiana?)
Honestly, I have trouble committing to teaching at church and I am a teacher by heart, by desire, by vocation.