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Worlds of Wow: Designing a Play Space With Visual Appeal

Transform your children’s ministry efforts with a dynamic play space that leaves parents and children saying, “Wow!”

When parents ask their kids what they want to do tonight, they say, ‘We want to go to church!’ ” says children’s pastor Bob Schickedanz from Glenview Baptist Church in Fort Worth, Texas.

Since installing the 33-foot-tall tree-themed modular play feature at Glenview, parents and children have inevitably been awed by the uniqueness and creativity of the children’s building. This church is effectively using this play feature to draw in new people, reach out to the community, and make a difference in the lives of children.

Churches across the country are seeing the same response to their innovative play areas. Church is no longer a place that’s dull, boring, and quiet. Now it’s a place that’s entertaining, engaging, and a complete sensory experience. It’s a place where stories of the Bible come to life with themed environments and interactive play experiences.

So why not transform your children’s ministry efforts with a dynamic play space, too?

Play Space Appeal

Using children’s play areas mirrors the same approach used in the fast-food industry. Parents don’t typically enjoy eating at McDonald’s, but the kids love it and therefore bring their parents along with them. When this happens, McDonald’s is successful in feeding the parents and kids. In the same way, children are having wonderful experiences at church, wanting to go back, and are bringing their parents with them. Churches are then able to spiritually feed the parents and the children.

These distinctive play areas are a magnet for new guests and attract those who otherwise wouldn’t have thought about attending church. Bob Carter with First Baptist Church in Warrensburg, Missouri, says their new, colorful, 26-foot-tall play attraction sends a message to families.

“I want the parents to see our play feature and know that we love kids and provide a fun, exciting, loving place for their family to worship,” Carter says. “We want to reach people who think church is a boring place.”

The castle-themed children’s ministry at First Christian Church in Canton, Ohio, is counting on a new themed attraction to assist their expanded efforts. Children’s pastors Ryan and Melissa Wolfe are working on their new feature: an 800-square-foot, 21-foot-tall indoor play feature.

“We want to get the kids excited about church,” Ryan Wolfe says. “We will provide them with a fun experience and something they can’t get elsewhere — a relationship with Jesus Christ. This is an added feature to help bring the kids in and keep them coming back.”

Just as with these churches, an innovative play space can literally open the doors to a community of people who wouldn’t have even thought of attending your church before. Then you can spiritually feed the entire family.

Signature Attraction

Any play area needs to be something that grabs the parents’ and kids’ attention upon entering and delivers that “WOW” effect. You want an attraction that says to the parents that you take teaching their kids seriously and says to the kids that this will be an enjoyable learning experience.

Bruce Barry of Wacky World Studios has literally changed the face of churches all across the country over the past few years with his unique themed environments.

Barry says, “Today’s generation is accustomed to a high-tech world. It’s no wonder they’re easily bored with old methods of teaching. We give churches the difference they need to compete with the distractions that our kids face today. Knowing what appeals to children of the new millennium can create an environment that’ll have the kids in your town begging their parents to bring them to your church.”

Since opening their new facility with the inspiring tree-themed modular play unit, Glenview Baptist’s children’s ministry attendance has increased 30 percent. The towering, themed play feature has simply become known as The Tree.

Grand openings of signature attractions such as Glenview Baptist’s are typically front-page articles for the local newspapers. Several facilities have offered “soft launches” on Saturday by inviting the entire community and media to see their new attraction. When you’re opening an innovative and creative new play area, the community wants to know about it and the local paper will cover it. This leads to more people knowing about your church and more people wanting to know what you’re about.

Your church’s signature attraction — whether it’s a themed area, a play feature, or anything — can lead more people to the only true signature attraction — Jesus Christ.

Ministry Tool

A dynamic play area dramatically increases your ministry opportunities. Churches are no longer being used only on Sunday mornings or Wednesday nights. Instead, they’re fast becoming venues for activities every day of the week as a community center. Having a one-of-a-kind attraction will increase the amount of activity in your church facility and provide more exposure for your church.

For churches, these new areas are keeping them open to the entire community all hours of the day, every day of the week. For those with day cares, preschools, or other school programs, spikes in enrollment are common. As the facility receives more exposure and publicity, enrollment rates soar. Moreover, these indoor play areas provide all-weather playability for any program. Janice Moore at The North Church in Carrollton, Texas, says her indoor play feature is being used all the time with groups reserving the room every Saturday.

Reaching the Next Generation

When I was growing up, church was not a “fun” place to be. We were warned not to talk or wiggle too much. We weren’t necessarily there to enjoy ourselves, even while we were learning. Therefore, I didn’t walk away wanting to tell all my friends how great it was and invite them with me. I didn’t have the urgency to want to go back again and again. With the new developments in children’s ministries, though, this is certainly no longer the norm.

What effect will this have? It’s already having a dramatic, life-changing, generation-altering effect. Churches are revealing the face of Christ to millions of kids across the country that’ll leave a lasting impression for the rest of their lives. Having themed environments and play features for the children sends the message that church is an enjoyable place to be. While creative play spaces are only a small part of that movement in the ministry, it’s one of the most visible aspects.

Themed environments and play areas are on the cutting edge of ministry efforts around the country. They’re another tool being used by God to reach kids and assist in your ministry efforts. Whether your ministry needs an extreme makeover or just a new attraction, these types of attractions can help make your efforts more fruitful. cm

Reagan Hillier is the Church Market Specialist with Koala Play Group in Keller, Texas.

Creating Worlds of Wow

There are several ways you can get creative and add some fun to your facility. I’m currently working with over 30 churches across the country on some type of theming or play feature. You can use current space or plan ahead for future construction. Again, the possibilities are limitless.

Transform your area step by step.

Sagemont Church in Houston, Texas, is installing several themed features over a period of time. They’re adding what they can afford now and adding additional items as they move forward. Their first installments were themed entry desks: Thatch Hut, Nautical Boat, and Heaven’s Gates. Future additions will include age-appropriate themed play areas in the foyers.

Add murals.

Adding murals around a room or in a hallway is another approach. Bruce Barry’s Wacky World just launched a wonderful new concept called Room in a Tube. This allows you to change the face of a room by installing ready-to-go murals on existing walls.

. This adds color and theming. More importantly, it’s quick and very affordable.

Consider modular play features.

The majority of churches I’m working with are installing modular play features. These are the tubes, crawls, and slides that the kids absolutely love to play on. These play areas provide age-appropriate play and can be customized to fit any space, theme, budget, and preferences.

Innovate in other areas.

Other activities to consider include a slide entry from registration to the children’s area or classrooms, soft foam play elements to match the theme of your ministry, and lighting or sound effects. Don’t forget that every play area needs to provide the following key components: visibility, adult supervision, security, cleanliness, and safety. might like this article: Overcome the Barriers to Decorating Your Children’s Ministry!

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