Should FUN be a Value in Children's Ministry?

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Children's Ministry Should be FUN
Fluff.
Watered-down.
Just a waste of time.
About 5 years ago that was my opinion of any kids ministry that focused on fun. My thinking has changed a lot since then. I’ve learned some things from experience and now I wholeheartedly endorse FUN. No children’s ministry can ignore the role of fun. It should be an intentional value in your programs. In other words, “I was against it before I was for it.”
Before you un-like me on Facebook, let me explain.
Two of my favorite #kidmin bloggers wrote about fun last week and I kicked around their ideas over the weekend. This post is 40% a response to their posts and 60% Monday morning rabbit-trail. Thanks Gina & Amy for the provocation. Lin also wrote about fun a little later.

Why Fun is Good

When kids talk about fun, they usually mean something they like. This could be any activity or environment that promotes a positive emotional experience. When mom’s ask kids, “Was kids church fun?” They usually mean did you enjoy the experience.
One fact of human development is the increasing complexity (or depth) of emotions. One might describe dozens of mood variations that children experience. They would include happy, excited, curious, confused, anxious, sad, mad, sad, bored, etc. These are not well defined and can change rapidly. So having fun just means staying on the good side of the emotions.
Most adults could describe their moods with more precision and might relegate fun to a smaller set of moods. But since adults are mainly crazy I won’t try to figure them out.
For kids, fun is any activity that encourages the positive range of emotional states. It does NOT always include being silly. Fun is anything that spurs curiosity, helps children participate, allows kids to laugh, makes the lesson memorable. In short, anything a child likes could be labeled fun.
Relationships exist within the context of their moods. When a child is in a positive emotional state, they are more likely to development positive attitudes toward the people and ideas they experience. Having a good time at church is no guarantee that kids will become Christian adults. But it does encourage positive attitudes toward what they learn and who they learn it from.
Making your ministry fun demonstrates love. It shows kids that you care enough about them to speak their language. It proves that you love them enough to become like them. Making it fun assures parents their kids will have a positive (and non-harmful) experience at church.

Why No-Fun is Bad

Activities that ignore the positive moods by default will encourage the negative – confusion, boredom, etc. In these situations kids will often create their own fun, usually in ways that disrupt what you are trying to teach. To correct their behavior you will often need firm discipline, which by often will encourage more negative emotional states in all the children. This cycle will quickly erode the educational and spiritual value of your ministry program.
Some route learning can be achieved without fun – I remember spelling tests too! But life-change learning does not flourish in negative emotional environments.

Fun is a Powerful Tool

When I was against fun, I wrongly assumed that fun activities could not encourage learning or spiritual growth. There are many ways to have fun that do really benefit kids. Games can help children recall or apply what they have learned. One example is this Sunday School game that teaches kids to encourage others. Acting out a Bible story will help children rehearse the main details and empathize with the characters. Craft projects can help integrate abstract concepts with existing life experience.
Wisdom would commend moderation with fun, especially if the you tend to neglect the whole range of emotional states. We need Jesus both on happy days and in hard times. There should be time for prayerful reflection and God-focused adoration. Of course, as kids develop spiritually those more serious moments become positive (and fun) in their own sense too.

What Do You Think?

So much of this conversation depends on how you define the words. Leave a comment below to let me know what you think. Is fun a value that you build into your ministry? How do you keep things interesting without losing the content.
Be sure to check out Amy’s post why is fun so important? and Gina’s post Defining “Fun” if you want more insight into this issue.
 

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