As parents to boys, Janet and I have learned that everything in all of existence can be one of two things: a ball or a weapon. And sometimes they can be both. Sadly. a Bible can be both. A stuffed animal can be both. A crystal wedding present can be both. My boys and other kids are all alike, they love to play.
One of the most amazing things about our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ, is that he choose to come to this earth and to put on human flesh. Instead of coming to this earth as an adult, God took on the flesh in the form of a child – a baby – and grew into adulthood, which means that there was a time when Jesus was a boy – that there was a time that Jesus loved to play.
Jesus is the God who played.
(And I actually think this is important to how we disciple kids.)
There is such an onus on kids achieving that they are no longer allowed to be kids.
We are the weirdoes – and just to be defensive, my wife is an early-childhood teacher – whose kids did not start kindergarten as readers. They’ve yet to see a flashcard. And this was a conscious choice – we wanted our boys to be able to be boys – to play while there is still time to play.
What we’ve learned, now that my boys have started school, is that the schools are getting away from kids learning through play. What schools are doing – and I think they are forced into it – is to teach a kindergartner today like we would have a 2nd grader in the past.
As one commentator said, “One of the most distressing characteristics of education reformers is that they are hyper-focused on how students perform, but they ignore how students learn.”
(You can read that quote here.)
Don’t get me wrong – in some respects this is a good thing – we’re learning that our kids are more capable than we give them credit. However, it takes away their ability to learn through play when we force them to sit at a desk and do worksheets. Kids love to be kids – they love to play. And in some respects, they learn best through play!
The same commentator on education said, “Through play, children build literacy skills they need to be successful readers. By speaking to each other in socio-dramatic play, children use the language they heard adults read to them or say. This process enables children to find the meaning in those words.”
As we consider discipling a child, we must remember that we worship Jesus, the God who played.
You might wonder what this has to do with, well, anything.
Cross Church leads two Kids Beach Clubs that have play built into their curriculum. Kids learn memory verses through play, they often have a part to play in the Bible study, and the day ends with a review game.
We had one parent who remarked, ““The boys loved it! And at 9pm were able to recite the verse for the day!!! THANK YOU SO MUCH FOR OFFERING THIS PROGRAM!”
The reason those boys were able to recite the verse for the day at 9 PM is because they learned it through playing a game.
We must refuse to disciple kids with the same methods we disciple adults. Kids learn best through play!
Here’s my challenge to you if you are a part of a children’s ministry: Make play a value of your ministry – it is a great way to lead kids to faith and to help them grow in their faith.