Participation - More Than Activity

An essential ingredient

by Rachel Pilcher/ October 1, 2015

Everyone wants kids to participate in ministry. How do we get kids to actually participate instead of just watching another activity? What about the different ages and personality styles?

Thinking back to my days in kids’ church, I remember sitting in a chair watching other kids play and participate in games. For some reason, I didn’t want to participate. With my friends I was super outgoing and fun loving, but in large groups of people I tended to be shy. I couldn’t think of playing a game or participating in a Bible story activity because I didn’t want to embarrass myself. (Those who know me know how totally different I am today!)

Today as a kids’ pastor I want to have kids to participate in everything. My heart desires to walk into a room where kids are loving Jesus, playing games, worshiping, being kind to each other, and experiencing God.  I understand each child must experience kids’ church in their own way. Along the way I observed that most boys will participate in a fast-moving or athletic game. Girls will participate if it is a craft or art project, while younger kids will sit quietly during a small group when older kids are present. 

To start the road of group participation, steer away from the idea of busy activities. Here’s how it typically works: You find a fun game on the Internet or Pinterest and wonder if it will work at church. It might have nothing to do with the theme or lesson but it looks like a fun game. Before you say yes, ask if it is really participation or just another “busy activity.” The goal is to move from busy activities to real participation by refocusing each moment of your service or class time. Use your time wisely.

Put your activities through the filter of the eyes of a child. Think for a moment about the personalities or ages in the room. Filter each element for a participation activity. Is there a way for every child to play the game? Is there a way for kids to respond to the message in small groups? Will they all have someone coaching them or asking specific questions? Preparation will create more up-front work , but the end results will be astounding.

Personally, as we began to move toward a more participatory model for our service and classes, we began to see a change in our kids’ responses and attitudes. They began to realize church was a family and community where we worship God, learned about Him, and experienced Him together. They loved the environment, they were retaining the teaching, they began entering into worship more, and they were bringing their friends. They began experiencing Jesus on their own level.  Finally, our kids started forming life-long relationships.

Participation is more than just activity. It is each child discovering Jesus for themselves.