What do kids say they want most from church?
Kids just want to have fun. They want to move their bodies — they want to create things — they want to play games. And they want to, well, eat. A lot! To every parent and teacher of children, this information is old hat for sure. But we can’t forget that while these kids are busy having all that fun, there’s a tremendous opportunity for them to learn about themselves, others, life, and God.
Now that reminder call has to reach children’s ministry leaders around the nation: “Church” and “Fun” must be synonymous! And that’s just what a focus group of kids told Children’s Ministry Magazine when we gave them the opportunity to tell us what they want from church. What do they like and dislike? What keeps them coming back? And most importantly, we wanted to determine what would make them tell their unchurched friends, “I love my church! It’s so fun! You oughta come with me some time!”
Keep It Coming
After multiple slices of pizza, countless sugar cookies, and a river of juice boxes, our group of 6- to 11-year-olds held back nothing while explaining what makes church enjoyable (and, although they didn’t come right out and say so, educational) for them.
When asked what they like and what they want more of at church, these kids had a lot of unanimous input. Even though their respective ages had a five-year span, the key elements that kept them happy and coming back didn’t differ much. (This is great news for program developers! The main facets of programming can be the same through the ages, just modify the theme’s simplicity/complexity.) The “more of” could be boiled down to the following four categories.
Activities top the priority list. Now, with this one, you’re probably grinning with pride and recognition, pulling out your “1,001 Bible Crafts” manual. But before you get too excited, we’re talking active activities here. Although some small-motor skills crafts are greatly appreciated (and what kid doesn’t love to come home with a colorful bracelet or bookmark?), there’s much more to consider. Running, jumping, climbing… big movement stuff. And what’s even better than running, jumping, and climbing? Games and skits that incorporate all that running, jumping, and climbing, of course!
Music makes kids’ hearts sing… but put away the hymnals. Kids want a fast, hip beat; repetitive lyrics (for easy learning); and a little action. When they’re moving their mouths to the music — and their arms and legs to solidify the song’s meaning, kids are in heaven. (And the angels may just have to put down their harps to move along with all these new praise action-songs!)
The Great Outdoors beckons. Being outside brought a loud, undisputed cheer from our group. Whenever possible, kids want to experience the awesome world that God made while they’re talking and learning about its Maker. Being outside not only provides them with new scenery and fresh air, but different outdoor environments can lend great opportunities to use God’s natural wonders as learning tools.
Food opens kids’ mouths and minds. Kids love food at church. They especially love candy, popcorn, cookies, cupcakes, and everything sweet, tasty, and unhealthy. Kids like food and want second and third helpings of it. And food can even drive home spiritual truths when done right. Move from crackers and Kool-Aid to snacks that make a significant point about your lesson. Ever thought of burnt offerings in snack form or angel cakes to make a point?