Creating a Welcoming Environment for Children’s Ministry
By: Kristin Charles
Maybe I just have a thing for aesthetics, but there is something to be said for a warm and welcoming environment. Have you ever walked into a classroom that invites you in with color and comfort and encouragement?
These places of learning are organized, interactive, and vibrant. On the walls, you'll find pictures of students laughing, words of wisdom and humor, and unique decor.
This is the kind of place where I want to be! More importantly, it's the kind of place where children grow to become more like Christ.
Many of our children's church environments are effective in engaging children. We use the little resources that we have to make the best of what we have. But there is always room for re-evaluation and assessment.
Sometimes it's best to have an outsider come in and give his/her honest opinion on our ministry surroundings. Sometimes it's best just to change things up on a regular basis.
Even if your facilities themselves are not ideal, you can still create a welcoming environment at little cost.
Included below are some ideas to utilize while looking at your own space.
1. Use Unique Décor
For fall, use cornstalks, hay bales, and pumpkins to incorporate a harvest theme. For winter, make a snowman out of big foam balls and decorate him. Use white lights and Poly-Fill for snow.
For spring, bring in the flowers, the rake, the shovels, and packets of seed. Summer could have hula hoop decorations, a surfboard, sunglasses, towels, and flip flops.
Of course, make sure that your environment coincides with the curriculum you are covering.
To cut costs, scour your basement or the church's supply cabinets. Send out a letter asking for needed supplies ahead of time or put a note in your church bulletin. If you have to spend money, dollar stores are always perfect places for decorative touches.
2. Thrive on Organization and Cleanliness
Allow your students to help in the clean-up. For younger children, use pictures as labels.
It goes without saying that the environment should be clean for everyone's health and safety.
3. Let Scripture Speak
4. Change Things Up
5. Welcome Children
On the mission field, I have witnessed many impoverished ministry environments, but the teachers were so rich in God and His compassion end energy that the children looked beyond their surroundings. They came because they saw Jesus in these servants who got on their level and welcomed them by name, high fives, and fist pounds.
6. Allow Ownership
7. Collaborate on a Project
Have them collaborate on a giant sculpture, a reading area, or a servant station.
Years ago, my mom's second graders worked together to create a gigantic dinosaur. I still hear stories about the pride on their faces when it was unveiled. Thirty some years later, that dinosaur is still taking up residence in that school.
It may be a big undertaking, but a collaborative project may be treasured for years to come.
8. Pray on Location
9. Provide Interaction
For interactive boards, have your students recommend books, worship songs, or favorite candy. Have them vote on how to best handle situations. Post your student (or staff) baby pictures and have the class try to guess who's who.
Make a graffiti wall of thanks, favorite verses, things that make them smile, and/or encouragement for others. Highlight one student every couple of weeks with his or her own "About Me" board.
10. Utilize Centers
Centers could include a reading center with sack chairs and biblically based books, an imagination station with dress up outfits and props, or an exploration station with water, sand, or science discoveries.
When creating these stations, consider how to broaden a child's understanding of God through play.
Kristin Charles writes for www.Ministry-To-Children.com, a resource started by Tony Kummer to solve children's ministry problems.