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Improving Your Children's Ministry Space
By: Scott Werner

Literally hundreds of churches have visited LifeKIDS, the ministry that I had the privilege of leading for the past five-plus years. The life-sized buildings in Toon Town and our amazing talking tree inspire and amaze. If you were to walk through LifeChurch.tv today, you'd love the children's area.

Maybe you'll be blessed with the finances to do something big within your own church. Or maybe you'll never have a design budget. But, regardless, everyone can do something. Make it up if you have to.

I read an article once about this children's pastor in Arkansas , this guy with a vision. With little more than a willing team with a great leader who believed that there had to be something different, this guy's faith steps literally changed the landscape of American children's ministry. The article laid out how his team dreamed, researched, planned, and sweated. Partnering with a secular company whose portfolio included Universal Studios and Disney, they innovated a themed children's area. I had to meet this guy. I wrangled an introduction with Dale Hudson.

He graciously welcomed us. The instant we met, we connected. God had placed a similar dream in both our hearts. He let us kick his ministry's tires, as he shared his story firsthand. We had our own ideas, stole many more from him, and returned abuzz, ready to create a space much better than we originally envisioned.

Here are some tips for your own children's ministry area.

1. Doing something may be hard, but doing nothing is, well, nothing.
Because of Dale's initial inspiration, today, in churches around the country, you will find slime machines, talking animals, two-story play structures, vibrant colors, amazing characters and more conceived and built by my dear friend, Bruce Barry of Wacky World Studios. But, if you had walked into our church before our renovations, before the money, you would have left with the same impression: They should do something!

I heard Willie George say once, "I refuse to place children in a beige room, seat them at a table, make them fold their hands, listen quietly to my team tell them a story, and teach them that this is God. My God is a God of color. My God is the master artist of the universe. My God created leaves, grass, rainbows, our eyes, our skin. He's alive. All His creation is alive to praise Him!"

I nearly jumped out of my skin. Preach it, Willie! The picture you paint for the children of your ministry will influence how they view God. Did you get that? The environment you create will determine whether they want to come, and whether they'll bring their friends.

2. Paint's cheap, and one person's trash is another's treasure.
How could you not do something? No excuses. You don't need money. Get stuff donated. Have people check their storage units, their garages, their closets. Buy cheap, colorful paint.

Our first space was 100% commando volunteers on a shoestring. We raided the storage barn and found some Styrofoam crosses that were used-once-in a cantata. We spray-painted them chrome and hung them from the ceiling. We nailed a broken retail cabinet back together, painted it, and made a "store" for our as-yet-uninvented incentive program. Volunteers built platforms from scraps, threw a paint party, found old light boards in a closet, and sewed fabric slip covers for the wall sound panels. Someone brought an old TV. Someone else donated a game system.

When we were done, "the Zone" looked great! More important, the kids loved it, and they loved being there. They brought their friends. And their friends loved it. They all begged their parents to keep bringing them back. In the meantime, we taught them that God loved them, and we proved to them that we did. That was the infant of who LifeKIDS is today, born in drops of sweat and paint. One room at a time, LifeKIDS grew into the bright lights of today.

3. Little things grow.
Luke 16:10 says, "If you are faithful in little things, you will be faithful in large ones." (New Living Translation)

Stop doing nothing, and stop wishing. Do you somehow expect that will yield some magic opportunity later? That's not what Scripture says. Be faithful now. Work with the abilities and the resources you have, however little. God will entrust you with more. Do something!

4. Remember who this is for.
Children love over the top. They love color. They love loud sounds and bright lights. If your children's area looks like a hotel conference room, or if it looks like your home, you missed it. Children are your target, not weekday businessmen. Make it fun. Make it loud. Make it cool!

5. See through the eyes of a child.
I have repeatedly led my team on a crazy exercise. We walked around our children's area on our knees. Why? Have you ever done it? If you haven't, then you don't know what your kids' world looks like. Do it. Finish this article and go for a walk. on your knees. Go (on your knees) to the restroom your kids are supposed to use. Try washing your hands that way. It's hard! Change your perspective. Most areas are designed for adults 5 feet and taller, but don't see a whole lot of kids 5 feet tall walking around.

6. Ask for help.
Have a work day. Local businesses will happily donate products, if you can only muster the courage to ask. Invite art students from colleges and high schools. Ask your kids what's cool. Gather all the information you can, formulate your plan, and invite others to help.

To this day, people still reminisce about those crazy chrome crosses. Why? Those things have been gone for years. They remember.because they hung them!

7. Don't bite off more than you can chew.
Be smart. Plan. Carve up what you need to do into phases. Execute just one phase at a time. Do not start a new room until the one you're on is 100% complete, or you'll never finish.

8. Make it fun.
Celebrate the changes as families arrive in their new spaces. Host your own version of Extreme Makeover. Invite. Involve. Engage.

Don't buy into all the easy excuses. You can paint a wall. You can build something. Anyone can. You can do something. Everyone can do something. Your kids will notice. Your ministry will change. Remember what Pastor George said-"Praise your Creator!" Be creative, even as He is creative. Do something, and watch God do something amazing!

Scott Werner is a partner with I.D.ME, www.idmenetwork.com, an innovative church management system first developed during his tenure at LifeChurch.tv. He is also an author and ministry consultant.









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