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 what’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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