I’ve noticed something lately that’s actually taken a long time to filter into my mindset.
Adults like to PLAY in Church.
No I’m not talking about the social tennis, football or cricket clubs.
I’m talking about the interaction that happens when you bring children’s toys into the worship space.
Have you noticed the reaction when young Miss zooms her car into the foot of the nearest adult. This gift, this invitation to play and interact, is often taken up by the adult she’s targeted. The smile cracks on the serious “church” face, and all else is suspended as momentarily they enter into the game and zoom the car back or playfully hold onto it.
We recently introduced a toy Quokka, to help children familiarise themselves with areas of worship. Now our congregation is, well, old. And Quokka has been getting plenty of hugs, smiles and movement from our not so young congregational members. He even ended up in our Minister’s chair. What cheek! ( I wished I’d thought of that).
I’ve seen our multi-racial dolls, used to tell stories of family life in the 21st Century, which might have been harder to share without these prompts, and not just by the children.
But the playing doesn’t stop there. The first time I had started to wonder if there was something to this idea that games were suitable for the Adults in the sanctuary, came a few years ago when I started to organise a monthly parents get together at the end of the service. Noticing that some of our littles were very active I thought I’d find some faith based activities that might help our kinetic learners. One of these was beautiful prayer mats from Flame http://flamecreativekids.blogspot.com/search?q=Easy+sensory+prayer. I had set this prayer up along the back of a pew, which was fortunate because, after the children had completed it, the adult members of the congregation wanted to have a go, and some of them were octagons! A little later I lent this to one of my fellow regional Child and Family Pastors, who reported back a similar occurrence when she used it in her congregation. Since then I have used this prayer with an Adult committee I was working with, and it was a great success.
Quiet a few years ago now, we built an incredible lego building as part of a spirituality class, at CCTC, now Sterling Theological College.
Another experience was that the best part of the Children’s Spirituality course I completed a few years ago was playing with the toys as a response to what we had been learning.
Over a hundred years ago Montessori built on the idea that children learnt through play, to change the lives of the Roman slum families.
Godly Play builds on her tradition and it is gaining credibility for its programs in aged care facilities. https://www.godlyplayfoundation.org/godly-play-with-adults-a-graceful-nurture-review/
When we invite children into worship, we invite their world, and their world enhances ours.
So off you go. Go play.
And let us know of your playful worship experiences.