Children often make things when they come to church. But what kind of making is happening in your ministry? Are you more interested in what things the children make, or in what they are experiencing as they make those things?
Focusing on the products of making may yield Instagram-worthy photos, but focusing on the process of making facilitates discipleship. If children are thinking about what they have heard or read in Scripture as they make things, questions and conversations will naturally accompany the activity. If children realize that their results do not need to look a certain way, they will be able to express their own responses and reactions. If children are given an opportunity to create according to their own giftings, all children will feel like they can participate and contribute.
How do we unleash the creativity of the children in our ministries and use it to disciple them?
The first step is to move toward a process-driven model rather than a product-driven one. Teaching children to sing a song so they can perform it perfectly does not really engage their creativity. Neither does providing a craft project with detailed instructions to follow. But, teaching children God’s truth through a song you sing together while allowing them to make up their own movements, play instruments along with the singing, or even write their own verse unleashes the creativity God has given them and encourages them to use it as they respond to Him. Providing children with paper and crayons so they can draw their own response to Scripture accomplishes the same thing. The physical results may not be as polished as the ones that come from more prescriptive activities, but the spiritual benefits will be far greater.
We also need to be intentional about incorporating all kinds of creativity. Singing and crafting dominate children’s ministry, but there are many other kinds of creative gifts. Some children may not love singing but will gladly pick up an instrument. Others may be intimidated by memorizing and performing lines but will happily participate in improvised drama or puppetry. Some will engage with building and modeling far more than drawing and coloring. The more kinds of creativity we can engage, the more inclusive our ministry will be and the more easily we can engage in everyday discipleship.
Here are a few specific ideas you might want to try to unleash the creativity of the kids in your ministry…
Songwriting provides an opportunity for kids to share truths about God along with their own emotions and experiences, just like the Psalmists. One option is to choose a verse or two of Scripture and have the kids set it to music. Another is to choose a familiar melody and have them write their own lyrics. Or, you can give them a theme and task them with creating both the lyrics and the music. Older kids and preteens will love the opportunity to generate their own material. You will be blessed as you listen and hear different kinds of creativity emerge during the process.
Instruments are tools of worship in the Bible, yet we tend to leave children out of the experience of using them in their own songs of praise. Simple percussion instruments designed for little hands (e.g. egg shakers, tambourines, etc.) are ideal for toddlers and preschoolers. Percussion is also great for elementary students—consider bucket drums and marimbas. Students who play or take lessons on an instrument can bring their talents into the mix. Of course, you can have students make instruments, too!
On the Spot Drama
Allowing kids to retell and act out a Bible story during your time together is a great way to reinforce its message and boost their memory with a creative experience. For younger ages, you can do most of the telling and give kids parts to act out. Older kids can either improvise lines or write their own script and add any other elements they think are important. They can also create simple puppets to reenact the story while someone narrates. The goal is not a finished product ready to be performed; the goal is to let kids get inside the story using their own creativity.
Making time and space for kids to draw their version of a story or idea is a great way to see inside their hearts and understand how its message has resonated with them. Kids can create graphic novels or picture book versions of Bible stories, Bible verse images, and more using nothing more than paper, coloring tools, Scripture, and their own imaginations.
Painting, sculpture, and other kinds of art can also be wonderful vehicles for a child to express his or her understanding of Scripture. Provide children with a passage or idea, then see what they create in response, allowing their creativity to guide them. Be sure to make space for conversation to happen while they make, too, so they can share the reasons for their creative choices with you and with their friends. It will inspire you to unleash their creativity as often as possible!