From Fine to Fun: Rediscovering the Joy of Childhood

As we disciple children in the way of Jesus, how can we curiously invite joy into the mix?

Natalie Frisk
3 minute read
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How was school? Fine. How was church? Fine. How was…? Fine.

Anyone else tired of fine? I want FUN! Especially in the summertime. OF COURSE, our number one goal is to disciple children in the way of Jesus, but I actually believe that Jesus was a fun guy. (Insert horrible mushroom joke here.) In fact, it’s not an accident that we love to laugh. It’s not a coincidence that JOY is a fruit of the Spirit.

From the beginning, God wired us for these things. And while, as adults sometimes, it is easy to forget the impulse for play and fun, I believe that the part of the positive childlikeness that Jesus invites us to experience is to participate in play in a joyful way.

In his book The Theology of Play, theologian and altogether brilliant human, Jürgen Moltmann, writes that 'we enjoy ourselves, we laugh, [we play] when our burdens are removed.' For adults, removing our burdens often takes so much longer. It is a burden to remove burdens. But for kids, the process is usually quicker, as their childhood flexibility often allows them to unfetter themselves and jump into joyous play. Lord, let us learn from this!

Though for some children, unburdening themselves does take more time. Crossing the threshold into kids’ church may add to the burden of anxiety. Caregivers leaving them to (perhaps) different summertime children’s ministry volunteers may increase fear.

Some helpful questions for us to consider as children’s ministry leaders then are:

  • How can we help kids in the process of unburdening to enter play?

  • How can we encourage more joy?

  • How can we grow in our own discipleship process by experiencing this joy too?

As children enter into kids’ church in the summertime, being greeted with play is a win/win. Summertime begs for play. If your kids’ ministry isn’t one to start with play, perhaps the summer is time to try it out?

As silly as it may sound, sometimes play is encouraged simply by offering a fresh what-if to invite them into play:

  • In lieu of simple tag, what if this pool noodle was an octopus tentacle and it is octopus tag?

  • Instead of passing a ball (as a talking stick) to share an idea, what if you pass a rubber chicken and tell the chicken your idea?

  • In exchange for grumbling through the door into kids’ church, what if you invited kids to be a wild animal entering the jungle? What if you invited them to bust their best dance move? What if you had them ‘swim in’ or ‘skate in’ or ‘ski’ in?

Part of moving from fine to fun is curiously inviting joy into the mix. We can do this in imaginative ways and we can also do it in simple ones: like adding a rubber chicken instead of a ball, inserting Lego instead of a coloring page, and sharing silly stories that make us belly laugh. Because, as Moltmann writes, '…jubilant, liberating laughter is always unburdening and burden-free'.

Invite the kids in your ministry to join you in a summer of unburdening and joy.

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