by Jared Massey/ January 6, 2016
I've heard it said that children smile as many as 400 times a day while the average adult smiles only 20 times. While these numbers may be somewhat exaggerated, I can't help but recognize the number of smiles and the frequency of laughter that come from my own three children. Laughter is truly good medicine and as leaders of children, it is important that we utilize laughter as a tool for reaching kids.
As an adult, when I get together with my siblings or high school friends, we almost always tell funny stories from childhood. These shared moments of laughter are moments that created a bond between us. After many years, those stories still cause us to laugh. In our ministries, when we create opportunities to share in fun moments—hilarious moments, we are creating bonds between the children we serve. The more extreme the moment, the more likely it will be to stick with them for life.
At the Disney Parks, cast members never point with one finger. They always use two fingers or their whole hand. Why? Because in some cultures, pointing with one finger is offensive. Across cultures, signs and symbols can often be misinterpreted, but one sign is universal across all known cultures--smiling. Kids instinctively understand a smile and we will connect at a deeper level when we create opportunities where we share those smiles and laughs with them.
When I do a funeral, I always try to include personal stories of the deceased. I strive to collect funny stories to share of silly things that person did. I've watched as, even in the darkest moments, laughter heals a broken heart. Many kids who frequent our ministries are broken and hurting. They need to laugh along with us. They need to feel joy. They need to know that even in despair, there is hope. At a medical level, laughter increases blood flow and immune response, so it quite literally heals. It also reduces stress and can even relieve pain.
I want the kids I serve to grow knowing that the greatest joy we can experience is found in the presence of Christ. I model that by striving to make my time with them some of their most joyous times of the week. I still believe in the serious moments and still cultivate those in our church (it was during a serious moment I received Christ and during another I was filled with the Holy Spirit). It is a both/and situation, not an either/or.
I would encourage all leaders (not just the ones who work with kids) to incorporate silliness that brings laughter into every teaching service you have and to schedule multiple "fun-only" events throughout the year. These moments will deepen relationships and can be powerful, and memorable teaching tools.