By Charity Kauffman
What makes something “kid-friendly?”
There are kid-friendly restaurant menus. Kid-friendly shows on streaming platforms. Even kid-friendly couch cushions! When something is kid-friendly, it’s created with children in mind. And because it’s been so carefully curated, kids love it!
For years, Sunday School and children’s church have served as kid-friendly options for worship, discipleship, and faith formation in churches. Children’s ministries have been curated with children in mind. But every now and then, it’s good for churches to consider, “Do kids still love it?”
Kid-friendly Sunday School programs put kids first. Their leaders think beyond “what we’ve always done” and embrace new formats and ideas in order to meet children right where they are with Jesus’ love.
Television host and Presbyterian minister Fred Rogers knew the value of putting kids first. He once pleaded, “Please think of the children first. If you ever have anything to do with their entertainment, their food, their toys, their custody, their day or night care, their healthcare, their education—listen to the children, learn about them, learn from them. Think of the children first.”
This request from Mister Rogers applies to children’s spiritual formation, too! As church leaders who share God’s love and story with children, let’s put kids’ needs and preferences before our own.
When we do, we’ll truly offer kids and their families discipleship programs that communicate God’s love and keep them coming back for more.
So, is your Sunday school or children’s church kid-friendly? These four questions will help you find out.
- Do kids play?
The Sunday School hour had just begun, and kids were having a blast playing, coloring, and have fun with leaders and friends. Then it was time to “officially” begin the lesson. Struggling to get kids attention the teacher shouted, “Enough with the fun and games, it’s time for the Bible story!” Kids groaned and begrudgingly put toys and games away.
Friends, it doesn’t have to be this way! Since children learn through play, Sunday School is kid-friendly when we implement playful, hands-on learning.
Rather than having kids simply sit and listen to a Bible story, invite them to jump in and play a part. For example, when telling about the time Jesus calmed a storm in Mark 4, create a storm with sound effects, movement, and props.
Or you could invite children to use toys to help tell a Bible story. Blocks, Lego people, and even plastic cups can become action figures that bring the Bible to life. Play is sure to make Bible learning memorable!
Kid-friendly Sunday School programs don’t separate play from learning. Rather, they invite children to play and learn together.
- Are kids’ favorite things included?
Some kids love science experiments. Others animal facts. Some children love to draw. Others would rather kick a ball. Some kids want to watch a video. Others love to sing at the top of their lungs.
If kids like these things, then Sunday School teachers need to be willing to do them! Kid-friendly Sunday School and children’s church programs invite kids to do the things they know and love as they learn to know and love God more and more.
- Are kids allowed to talk?
If you find yourself constantly hushing kids or reminding them to be quiet and listen, your Sunday School may not be kid-friendly. Kids have something to say! Their stories, insights and questions are treasures to be heard. Kid-friendly Sunday School teachers don’t just talk at kids…they talk with kids!
You can spark kids’ conversation by posing an introductory question at the beginning of each lesson. Check to see if your curriculum asks a question that’s related to the day’s main Bible point or Bible story.
An intentional, open-ended question (which doesn’t have a “right” or “wrong” answer) gets kids talking and prepares them to discover what the Bible has to say, too.
Here are some fun examples to try with kids in your church!
- “Where would you put a toy that’s special to you? In our Bible story, we’ll hear about a mom who carefully put a baby in a basket! God took care of the baby, and God takes care of us.”
- “If you could have any pet, what would it be? What would you do to take care of it? Today we’ll see how God cares for us through others!”
- “What is your favorite snack food? It’s fun to hear what you like best. Today we’ll find out that God sees the best in us!”
Sunday School is kid-friendly when we ask questions and listen to what children have to say. We’ll get to know kids better, and their answers will help us discern if kids are truly understanding Bible stories and truths. This leads us to the last question:
- Do kids know Jesus?
It’s one thing for kids to know Bible facts. It’s another thing for them to know Jesus. When Sunday School leaders talk about their own friendship with Jesus, kids see that Jesus isn’t just a character in a book—he’s a forever friend who matters in our lives.
When sharing a Bible truth like “Jesus is real” or “Jesus forgives,” it’s good to ask, “What does that mean for children?” Putting ourselves in kids’ shoes helps us explain why knowing truth from the Bible matters in everyday life.
For example, a preschooler needs to know that Jesus is real when they pray at night. Their prayers are heard by their forever friend who loves them. An elementary child who talks back to a parent needs to know that Jesus forgives and will help them sort through tough feelings.
Kid-friendly Sunday School or children’s church programs help kids see why their friendship with Jesus matters and equips them to find comfort and strength from Jesus when they need it the most.
Rest assured: Kid-friendly Sunday School and children’s church programs make a difference! So, let’s invite God to help us answer these questions and guide us as we put kids first.
Charity Kauffman is a former children’s ministry director and a managing editor at Group Publishing, www.group.com. She is the lead editor of Simply Loved curriculum, contributes to Group’s Easy VBS and DIG IN Children’s Church, and posts articles on www.childrensminitry.com.