In the first edition of an ongoing exclusive column for The Scoop, Scott Guyatt explores the possibilities of what could happen if every church embraced a particular concept or innovation. This month: the kids’ playground.
“Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of God belongs to such as these” (Luke 18:16)
The physical facilities at a church property matter a great deal—as I’m sure we can agree.
The main auditorium/church area needs all the right facilities for worship gatherings: sound, lighting, seating, electrics, instruments, communion table, baptismal font and so on.
And the same applies to the hall: space, lighting, sound gear, furnishings, kitchen and so on for a whole range of uses.
We need the kinds of facilities that enable us to be the kind of church we want to be.
But there’s more to it than just having the raw materials. Condition and appearance matter too. Cracked and faded paint, broken fences, threadbare carpet, old, worn out or uncomfortable furniture send a very clear message to those who happen by.
The very same thing applies to the kinds of facilities that interest families with small children.
Often we give little more than a passing thought to making kids feel welcome. How many churches have you visited where the only visible sign that kids and families are welcome is a small box full of old cast-off toys in one corner of the room (and even then only visible if you know where to look)?
Contrast this to a certain well-known fast food chain that installs a modern, bright, safe, fun and (most importantly) highly visible children’s playground at almost every one of their “family restaurants”. The playground calls to the kids. Parents can eat or chat while the kids play safely.
It’s a simple recipe I’m proposing: add a modern, brightly coloured, safe children’s playground (in a visible location) to nearly every Uniting Church congregational property in Queensland.
This is a visible indicator that says to young children and families “we welcome you here”, and it’s a tangible, physical sign that we really are committed to children and families, as our new Synod priority directions state.
It’s a place for safe and fun play, for learning, for nurturing peer interaction.
Of course, if we don’t genuinely extend a warm welcome to children and families, and if we don’t think about what it means to engage, encourage, disciple and worship together, then the nicest playground in the world won’t make a long term difference … but as part of a committed strategy to make our congregations kid and family-friendly, our physical facilities have a huge contribution to make.
What if every church had a playground?
For more information about safety in play environments and resources around implementing playgrounds at your church visit kidsafeqld.com.au/index.php/playground-safety