By Christine V. Hides
“God’s story surrounds us!” exclaimed a room full of four year-olds when Katie and I shared the Godly Play Faces of Easter story on a recent Friday morning. This discovery happened during our wondering time, after they heard the story, and looked at the picture. They were invited to bring something else in the room that would help to tell the story of Jesus’s life. We watched with delight as they connected story after story in very real, thoughtful ways. With the floor covered in stories these young theologians were able to visualize that God’s story surrounds our lives.
Children’s Ministry intentionally creates opportunities to discover and play at Kenilworth Union. Research shows that play is an essential part of physical, mental, social, and spiritual growth. We value curiosity, joy, and wonder at a time when playtime in our society is declining. There are at least three important faith-play connections:
- Play nurtures imagination. Just as God’s story is big so is God’s dream for this troubled world. Jesus’ parables invite us to imagine a kingdom that starts out like a small seed and grows into an enormous bush that birds can build nests in.
- Play dramatically decreases the amount of repetitions needed to create new synapses in the brain. Our third graders are best able to memorize long Bible passages best when they play games and create hand motions.
- Play offers us rest. People often ask what makes Middle School Youth Group so popular. I believe it is that we devote most of the time to playing games that encourage cooperation and relationships. Most other activities for fifth and sixth graders emphasize competition and achievement. This play time offers them a way to connect with friends and a rest from the stresses of school and everyday life.
For all of these reasons play is an important part of our Guiding Principles for Children’s Ministry: “All of us are on a faith journey that continues throughout our lives. Children are innately spiritual possessing the capacity to experience God here and now. We attend to learning styles and child development. We nurture curiosity, wonder, play, and joy while honoring children’s voice and choice.”