Here's why play time might be the most important part of your KidMin
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Let me ask you a question: What do you think is the most important thing that happens in your KidMin on a Sunday morning? Is it the worship time? Is it the gospel-centered teaching? Is it the study of God's Word? I think a case could be made for any of these things. Without a doubt, they're all at the core of what we do in KidMin. But I believe there's something even more foundational that has to happen in way of preparation. Because before you plant the seed, you have to till the soil.
So how do you till the soil in your KidMin? In one word: relationship. In my previous blog post, I talked about an article written by David Brooks titled, "Students Learn from People They Love," In that article, Brooks shares this story: "A few years ago, when I was teaching at Yale, I made an announcement to my class. I said that I was going to have to cancel office hours that day because I was dealing with some personal issues and a friend was coming up to help me sort through them. I was no more specific than that, but that evening 10 or 15 students emailed me to say they were thinking of me or praying for me. For the rest of the term the tenor of that seminar was different. We were closer. That one tiny whiff of vulnerability meant that I wasn’t aloof Professor Brooks, I was just another schmo trying to get through life. That unplanned moment illustrated for me the connection between emotional relationships and learning."
At the end of his article, Brooks points out how "some schools, for example, do no academic instruction for the first week. To start, everybody just gets to know one another." Simply put, children learn from the people they love. And love is the result of getting to know one another—it's the result of relationship. Before our kids come to know Jesus, they just might need to know us first.
So ask yourself this: How would your KidMin look different if you put relationship at the center of Sunday morning?
For many of us, including myself, the tendency is to place "programming" at the center. We pour over the details of the lesson—what songs are we going to sing, what Bible story are we going to tell, what object lesson are we going to use, what craft are we going to make, what game are we going to play. These are very important details, but in the pursuit of a quality program, we often times minimize, if not completely eradicate, all space for relationships to happen.
So how can we make space for relationships in our KidMin?
Great question—I'm glad I asked it!
There are a lot of things we can do, but let me start here. If you don't already, build an activity time or play time into the beginning of your Sunday morning. As the kids arrive, give them and the leaders an unstructured time and space to just be among one another. Play time isn't just about having fun. It's not even mostly about having fun. If we're intentional about play time, it's one of the greatest opportunities for building relationships. But the keyword is "intentional." Too many leaders see play time as something fun that preoccupies kids until the lesson begins and real ministry starts to happen. But play time is the real ministry! For that to be true, though, we have to challenge our leaders to step away from the huddle of grown-ups, to get off the wall and onto the floor, to play with the kids, to talk with them, to laugh with them and to be among them.
After all, isn't that what God did with us?
The gospel doesn't call us to follow a set of precepts, it calls us to follow a person. It calls us to follow Jesus Christ, who "became flesh and dwelt among us." A relationship is at the center of the gospel. It should be at the center of our KidMin as well.