The title of my ‘Something to take home‘ series echoes the wishes of many parents and leaders in children’s ministry settings. It’s as if we have grown accustomed to our kids returning from Sunday School or VBS with tangible evidence of what was covered. We’ve almost developed a culture of expecting paper based craft to take home. But I’d like to argue that there are alternatives, and alternatives worth considering seriously. One option is to make more detailed crafts designed to become memorabilia. Another option is to make edible craft – again it’s something to take home but still avoids the disposable craft option. But what if what was ‘taken home’ was something internal, something that couldn’t be eaten or stuck on the fridge or displayed on a shelf? Could we still consider this an activity worth doing?
I’d like to say YES!
Craft-less activities have several benefits when measured against traditional paper based craft. Here are just a few of them:
- Craft-less activities appeal to a far wider range of learning styles in children.
- They are often group based and foster a sense of community.
- They require more communication which gives you, as the leader, the opportunity to see how the children you are mentoring are internalising faith lessons.
- They can be active and heaps of fun.
- They potentially result in very little waste and can be low cost!
- They are incredibly inclusive.
Like with all other forms of activities for children’s ministry settings, the key to making this work is to look closely at the content of the lessons and consider how the children involved would best internalise these lessons. This may require some grappling with themes and perhaps wavering slightly from the ‘outcomes’ listed in curriculum materials in preference to your own.
The aim of any activity in a children’s ministry setting should not be to ‘keep the kids busy’ but to provide opportunities for children to participate in the stories and concepts being explored. Kids need time to toss around ideas, to explore who God really is and what he feels towards us, to imagine what it would be like to be an Israelite in the desert, to put into practice lessons on fruit of the spirit. It’s all hand’s on and heart learning as opposed to head knowledge and comprehension.
I’m not saying we never use worksheets or hand-outs, but don’t feel you have to rely on them when there are so many other options that enable us to reach a much wider range of children and mentor them more adequately.
Here are some types of craft-less activities that could replace the traditional worksheet:
- Provide opportunities for children to be involved in serving the wider church or community
- Have interactive story-times including drama or role play
- Go on an excursion
- Play a series of games that reinforce the story theme (E.g. when learning about how Jesus saves us, play games requiring the children to be ‘rescued’.)
- Make a movie as a class
- Dig up some old fashioned storytelling tools, like sand boxes and flannel-graph and let the children retell the lesson to each other using the various materials.
- Make storybooks of favorite lessons using photos of the class dressed up
The ideas are endless once you give yourself and your program space and time to think of them! And the fruit of such learning experiences is that the children in your programs will be taking home something much more lasting than a Noah’s Ark word-search – they’ll be taking home memories and heart lessons which are far more difficult to toss out!
Have fun – I’d love to hear some more of your ideas so please leave a comment below.
Have you missed any of the posts in this series about avoiding paper based activities? You might enjoy the following:
Something to take home #1
Something to take home #2 – Crafts that keeps!
Something to take home #3 – Crafts you eat!