Not long ago, as I sometimes do, I was observing in a KidMin. Here's what I observed: when the doors opened, a steady stream of kids came walking in to...well...not much. The leaders were all there, but most of them were huddled together, engaged with each other, but not with the kids. On top of that, there wasn't much in terms of games or activities for the kids. For the most part, the kids just sort of hung out, waiting for things to start. It was underwhelming. 15 minutes later, the program began and things got much better, but there was a huge missed opportunity. There are 168 hours in a kid's week. As a KidMin leader, you get 1 of them. (Actually, with the declining rate of attendance, you get much less than 1. But I'm not good with math, so I'm just going to round up.) That's why it's so important that you make every minute of that hour count. So how do you do that? In my experience, most of the wasted KidMin minutes (KidMinutes?) are at the beginning and end of the service hour, so I'll focus on those. There's nothing wrong with having a playtime at the beginning of the service. In fact, a lot of valuable things can happen during that time if you're intentional about it. But the keyword is "intentional." So here's what you can do to be more intentional about your playtime:
Train your leaders to engage the kids during playtime. In the mind of many volunteers, their "job" starts when the lesson starts, but that's not the case. Their job starts as soon as the first kid walks into the room. Playtime is not so much about playing as it is about relationship building. Incredible relationships can be built while playing, so train your volunteers to engage with the kids by playing games and doing activities with them.
Choose games and activities that foster relationship.Not only is playtime a great opportunity for leaders to develop relationships with kids, it's a great opportunity for kids to develop relationship with each other. But some games and activities lend themselves to building relationships better than others. Video games, for example, are incredibly relevant and add a "cool" factor to your KidMin, but for the most part, they don't do a great job at connecting people relationally. When choosing your activities, ask yourself, "Does this activity promote interaction or isolation?" If you're looking for good pre-service game and activity ideas, download my free "31 KidMin Games and Activities" eBook.Provide a playtime activity that sets the lesson up. Playtime is a great time to introduce the lesson or story for the day. This is one of the things that we built into the GO! curriculum for preschoolers. For example, for the "Peter Walks on Water" lesson, create a "Sink or Float" activity. At the end, ask the kids, "What would happen if you tried to walk on this water? Would you sink or float?" It gets them thinking about the story before the lesson even begins.
There are also some ways you can make every minute count at the end of the service, but I'll tackle those in my next blog.