Kids church is not some kind of Chuck E Jesus’

Kids church is not some kind of "Chuck E Jesus'."

Can we play a game…
We should play a game…
Can we play a game now

Her tone of voice was more demanding than you’d expect. After all, this little angel was only in kindergarten and usually gave me no trouble. But not today – she was in rare form. The lesson wasn’t enough to keep her entertained and she wanted more.

She was speaking out of turn and the group was becoming distracted. I needed a quick redirect, but had no idea what to say. My reaction was kind but firm.

Ok kids, repeat after me… This is not Chuck E Cheese’s.
This is not Chuck E Jesus’

As the class repeated my words, she smiled and understood the point. We moved on and the crisis was soon forgotten.

No, I’m not against Mr. Cheese — his place is our default for family birthdays.

Yes, I understand that fun is an essential tactic for working with kids. I’ve always known the hard facts of working with children. They are always 30 seconds away from becoming a mob. It you don’t make it fun, they will invent their own kind of fun…. Not a good situation.

At the same time, we can’t mistake this tactic for the objective. We’re not selling pizza and game tokens. Our calling has more weight.

On any given Sunday, we enter into the battle for the souls of these children. Their life trajectory and eternal joy rests on the message of the Gospel.

If children’s ministry matters at all – kids church must be more than some kind of Chuck E Jesus’.

I’d love to hear your feedback. How do you balance fun and the weight of Gospel ministry? Do you think giant mice should be selling pizza to children? Leave a comment below to join the conversation.


Comments

  1. says

    Kindergarten – 2nd grade is a very lively class for me. The children have so much energy! Fortunately, the mixture of ministry-to-children and Gospel Light lessons, helps them to learn and have activities as their rewards. I bring them back by asking review questions. And last week, when our the two youngest students were acting wild and not listening, I got them all into a circle and we sat down and prayed (popcorn prayer style, so each child was expected to say a prayer). After that, the Lord gave us such peace and cooperation! And we were able to continue with our lesson.

  2. Valarie Tucker says

    Hello Tony,

    I’d like to say I think the approach the teacher took was good. At my church, the Lighthouse Church of all Nation in Alsip, IL where the Rev. Dan Willis is the pastor and Mrs Rachel Cole is over our Chidren’s Ministry. Our Sunday School consists of 6 different classrooms where the kids rotate through where they go to a different class every Sunday. Its the same lesson just presented in a different way. We have a class where the lesson is acted out by the students. We have a class where they play games relating to the lesson. We also have a movie room where they watch a movie about the lesson. In the art room they make a take home project relating to the lesson. In my room, the Tent Room is where they read the bible and have hands on activities for the lesson. Last but certainly not least, is the computer lab, All of the kids love this room, The lesson is installed in a computer program and they have to read, answer questions and do puzzles pertaining to the lesson…To wrap it all up on the last Sunday of the month we have what is called Kidz Jam where the lesson is put into a form of fun and all the kids meet is Kids church and just have fun and play games and all sorts of things with the main focus being on what they learned during the month. I am a teacher and I love this way of getting God’s word into the children. It is long lasting because we have found a way to combine fun with God’s word thereby captivating the minds of the children and not boring them to death.

  3. says

    I loved your article, Tony! And I love that the little girl responded when you told her, “This is not Chuck E. Jesus’!” Our church has gotten away from traditional Sunday school, believing that “reading out of the Bible” is too boring for modern kids and replacing it with a color-by-number, one-size-fits all curriculum that is supposedly more “fun” for the kids, but where the teachers don’t even have to prepare anything! When teachers can just show up the morning of the lesson and “do” what is already prepared in advance for them, it leaves the heart and soul out of teaching. Also, my daughter has commented on the new Sunday school approach, “They concentrate more on having fun, but we don’t learn as much as before.” That’s why in addition to our church Sunday school, we’ve been holding a Sunday school of our own at home, where we use lessons that we get from ministry-to-children.com. There is just the right balance of fun and God’s Truth. Thank you SO MUCH, ministry-to-children, for spreading God’s Truth to children who desperately need it AT NO COST! We couldn’t continue to have such a vibrant home Sunday school without you.

  4. Reverend Eleanor Kendall says

    Hey Tony,
    I like the SS lesson that you shared with the books (Strong Together). There was just enough humor in it to keep students entertained, in the event a book feel or a few books fell, you know the children were going to laugh; yet the point was made very well. The Scripture you used confirmed the subject matter, and I think it was very well developed.

  5. says

    Hey Tony, great topic for discussion! The age-old “how much fun is too much fun?” debate is something that is always in the back of mind.

    I definitely agree that “fun” should not be the ultimate ideal for kids ministries. I don’t think that every moment of a kids church service or small group should be filled with zany antics and raucous laughter.

    However, I believe that kids ministry should always be engaging. Our ultimate goal should be to present our message in a way that captures kids’ imaginations and piques their interest, sometimes through lightheartedness and sometimes through moments of reflection or seriousness.

    If our services or classes are not keeping kids’ attention, we need to take a hard look at what we’re doing and see what we can do to make it more interactive and interesting.

    Thanks for the great topic and for everything you do for kidmin!

  6. Savannah says

    i make them listen and quiz them at the end of the lesson, or play a game or two about the topic. I find it nice to “stretch my legs” after a short-but long- lesson. =D

  7. Tricia nicastro says

    It’s less about the weight of it and more about the beauty of getting their hearts excited about who Jesus is to them at 3, 4, 5 yrs old. Which is absolutely play based learning experiences. Jesus will show up in that when we seek Him to. Methods and lessons aside. I would never want my preK or k coming home with the scent emcee this is not chuckle Jesus in her heart and head. And neither am I saying create a carnival….but play based fun experiences are how this age group takes things in best. It’s really knowing that and asking Jesus to meet us there. Those are His little hearts to get to. Open hands and saying how will little 5 yr old so and so experience you in this moment….Jesus.

    • says

      I have to agree with the above explanation. Play-based fun is best & is the angle I use. It’s impossible to keep these little minds occupied for very long but, you can plant the seed/make the appropriate impression.

  8. Diane says

    The more enthusiastic and real I am the more the kids will listen. I like to “tell” the story not read it. I can make it more exciting or emphasize what the Lord is leading me to share that day. Sometimes we act it out. Sometimes I become the character and tell the story from my point of view. One of the best books I read with my own children was, ‘Hey!That;s not what the Bible says!’ You can change the story and see if the kids catch it. This is especially fun if it is a familiar story. Keeps them listening.

  9. Jennie Kind says

    I agree. I have always sort of bucked the carnival approach to Children’s Ministries. I really think that there is inherent “fun” to learning the things of God. My favorite definition of fun is, from a child’s perspective, something they want to do again…However, having said that my personal approach to children’s ministry is like a three legged stool…one leg is truth (scripture), one leg is relevance (application to life), and the third leg is fun (if a child isn’t having fun, they won’t want to come back)…they hold up the seat which is Jesus (relationship with him)…If you are missing any of the legs…your seat falters. I always include a game or an object lesson or something fun and interactive with the kids, it keeps them engaged, having fun and hopefully draws them into closer relationship to Jesus.

  10. says

    So good, Tony. Thanks for this! I do everything possible to make our lessons fun for our kids. People at our church have no clue the amount of work it takes to do this and how many 10 minute change-ups have to be invented to keep the attention of the kids. You are so right that our ministries are not Chuck E-Jesus, yet it HAS to be fun. I find it harder and harder to “compete” with video gamedriven kids who cannot sit still for 5 minutes without falling asleep or looking bored, But, i keep trying in order to get it across. What a priviledge and responsibility we have. I teach mostly older kids (4th and 5th) and i feel such an urgency to help them understand the gospel and their responsibility in sharing it with others. We all need prayer and to learn from one another!

  11. Maquata Whitfield says

    Tony this is the way my class starts on Sunday morning greeting to all my children, prayer, a lesson, at this time they are getting a little restless so I tell the if they want to do crafts they will have to settle down so we can finish our lesson, then we have our snack and we start our craft. Our crafts usely take about thirty minutes to fourty five minutes to do. Then we have a dismissal prayer. And I thank each one for coming.

  12. says

    I find this amusing that you mention Chuck E. Cheese and pizza. Amusing because this past weekend I used “Make your own pizza” to lure 23 neighborhood children into my home to play with Legos, puzzles, and learn about respecting places, things and people. This was the beginning of a monthly bible study club for kids that live in my subdivision. Sharing the gospel can and should be engaging. It is important that leaders in children’s ministry find creative methods that are fun and informative and promote involvement. We must use methods that keep them coming back. As we do this, the method will help us share the Message. So rather than reject Chuck E. Cheese, let’s take a closer look and see that he is doing to keep kids coming..

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