Big Fun On Any Budget

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Playspaces can add value to your ministry and draw your community — regardless of your
budget.

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Considering installing a play attraction at your church? You-like many other leaders-are onto something. Kids love play — and a play feature can be an outstanding ministry tool to reach families.  Churches with innovative children’s spaces and features experience rapid growth. The good news is that you too can create a special destination and gathering spot in your church regardless of your budget.

Plan Ahead

As you begin your playspace project, follow these five recommendations to ensure your ministry maximizes its
investment.

• Get out and visit. The first step in considering a playspace project is to visit other churches and see their play attractions. Visit churches that are larger and smaller than yours and those of different denominations. Seeing that’s out there will help you get a grasp of what you want — and what you don’t want.

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In the initial planning stages of their new building project, Director of Children’s Ministry Cathy Rucker and Director of Preschool Ministry Cathy Lane of First Baptist Church in Humble, Texas, visited more than a dozen churches and took pictures of what they liked and disliked to better decide what they wanted in their new space. In addition to visiting churches, visit other kid-friendly facilities, such as children’s museums, family entertainment centers, and daycare centers.

• Select a quality manufacturer. Even if you’re on a strict budget, that shouldn’t mean you automatically select the lowest-priced option. Even high-end companies offer seasonal discounts and specials you can benefit from. I recommend buying quality over quantity since you’ll most likely be using the play features for many years. A higher price on the front end actually ends up costing less once you factor in maintenance costs of lower quality structures.

• Know your safety-compliance regulations. It’s always better to overplan than to realize once your  playspace is complete that you aren’t in compliance. You need to know what specific requirements your state and local laws have for facilities caring for children. This information is typically available at your state regulatory agencies. And before beginning any project, it’s always wise to be sure you understand the insurance coverage
on your church’s liability policy. Contact your insurance agent if you have any questions or concerns.

Independent risk consultant Mary Lou Iverson from Iverson & Associates advises, “Make sure the equipment you’re considering meets or exceeds the required safety standards from organizations such as American Society for Testing and Materials (astm.org), Consumer Product Safety Commission (cpsc.gov), and the Americans With
Disabilities Act (ada.gov). In addition, you’ll need to commit to an ongoing inspection and maintenance program to keep the equipment in compliance.”

• Determine age appropriateness. Play equipment is designed and rated for specific age groups. Purchase the right equipment for the age groups using it. Typically, the older the children the more challenging activities they desire.

• Create a destination. Think outside Sundays and Wednesdays. How else will your new playspace enhance your ministry or your outreach efforts? What attractions will make your church a destination in your community?

Trinity Fellowship Church in Amarillo, Texas, is building a multipurpose children’s play center that’ll be perfect for hosting birthday parties, lock-ins, special events, and other gatherings-beyond the typical ministry uses.

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