See How to Energize Children’s Ministry with Amazing Environments

Check out these creative ideas for how to help kids engage in and retain God’s Word!
10 min read

Using elements of creativity is crucial when it comes to attracting children and families to your church. We know that creativity isn’t the end-all-be-all of children’s ministry—there are other important things.

But let’s not ignore this fact: our God is creative! Genesis 1:1 says, “In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth”.

In Strong’s Greek and Hebrew Dictionaries, the word translated “created” is “bara.” It means to form or fashion. This describes creating as bringing into existence something new.

God took something that was unformed and unfilled and made something new out of it.

You might be asking: Chad, what’s your point? My point is that if it weren’t for the creativity of God, humanity would not exist. Therefore, as children’s pastors and leaders, we must strive to be creative in ways that reflect our God’s creativity.

Children Wearing Lighted Mind Reading Helmets
Image Credit: RichVintage/E+/Getty Images

There are so many examples we can glean from when it comes to creativity. We just have to take time to notice them, leverage them, and bring the new to life.

Throughout my time in children’s ministry, I’ve used all sorts of relevant, catchy, twenty-first-century ideas that I knew—without a doubt—kids would relate to.

Creating Amazing Environments

I pull the loose ideas—those sparks of creativity—together and tie them to the message or series I’m teaching in my ministry. And then to take it a step further, I use those elements to create attractive environments for our ministry.

An Example: Decorating for Treasure

If I’m teaching a series on Matthew 6:21 (“For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.”), I’m probably going to pull together elements based on “Pirates of the Caribbean”.

I’ll use props that match the theme, and my stage design will consist of a ship, treasure chest, jewels, gold, and other pirate gear. Maybe I’ll have one of my kid actors or storytellers dress up as a giant parrot. The sole purpose of this role would be to add a funny element to the story to keep it engaging and interactive. Remember—this is kids’ ministry!

Here is what we know about pirates: they LOVE gold. Here is what we know about Matthew 6:21: Jesus is teaching us the importance of loving Him more than we love our possessions.

I would ask the kids, what kind of “things” do you love? Some would say video games, other would say TV. I would intentionally look for items that have the potential of replacing our relationship with God.

I would teach them that having things isn’t bad, we just have to be careful not to allow things to have us. Trusting and loving our possessions more than we love God is what Jesus is warning against in the text.

Kids need visual cues to help them engage in and retain the message!

I’ve always seen creative environments as a way to support the teaching—kids need visual cues to help them engage in and retain the message.

Boy with box covering head and homemade toy robot
Image Credit: Ian Nolan/ Cultura/Getty Images

Stage design is just one of many examples of using creativity and the resources God has given us to reach children with His good news.

Inspiring Kids’ Spaces

I’ve also seen churches create a consistent look throughout their kids’ spaces.

Lakewood Church in Houston, Texas, has KidsLife—a place where kids experience that God is a Great big God and they can have a great big life! They’ve incorporated a “quest” theme in their space.

Mariners Church in Irvine, California, has Mariners Kids where they inspire kids to follow Jesus and fearlessly change the world. Their kids’ space is water themed—beginning with the “Welcome Harbor” check-in area.

These are all perfect examples of what it means to have an amazing kids’ space. They have more consistent themes, objects coming out of the walls, and state of the art stage designs. They believe that kids who come to church should really experience it.

Other churches, like Grace Church in Overland Park, Kansas, have different themes to tie into the series or teaching for the month or quarter. There are pros and cons to both approaches. Churches who use different themes tend to spend more money, but the positive is that they keep it fresh and exciting.

What Inspires You to Be Creative?

I oversee a very large children’s ministry in Fontana, California, at Water of Life Community Church. My children’s ministry, Empowered Kids, can see anywhere from 1200 to 1400 kids across multiple campuses each weekend.

Being creative in such a diverse community is a high value if we are going to be successful at reaching our community.

I’ll never forget what my Pastor, Dan Carroll, said to me during the interview. His words pierced my heart. He said, “Chad, we are conservative in doctrine, but we want to reach people in creative ways”.

In other words, we will never change the message, which is the Gospel—the good news of Jesus dying on the cross to save us from our sins. But we will strive to find ways to be relevant and creative to share that message.

We are conservative in doctrine, but we want to reach people in creative ways.

Lessons from Disney

Creativity is one of the most effective ways to attract children and families to the church. I was sharing this same concept with my staff at Empowered Kids.

Not only did I want them to get this concept, but I also wanted them to experience it first-hand. So, I surprised them all with a trip to Disney World.

In my opinion, Disney does this as well as anyone. Everything—from the environments to the attractions to the rides and the food stands—is created to intentionally capture the eye and the imagination of children.

Walt Disney World Resort Celebrates 45th Anniversary to Colorful Fanfare
LAKE BUENA VISTA, FL – OCTOBER 01: Walt Disney World Resort marked its 45th anniversary on October 1, 2016 in Lake Buena Vista, Florida. (Photo by Jacqueline Nell/Disneyland Resort via Getty Images)

I grew up in Orlando, Florida, and had the opportunity to experience Disney World many times. But this time I experienced it in a whole new way.

As someone who is passionate about Children’s Ministry, I’m always looking for ways to step it up and incorporate more cutting-edge ideas and cool-looking environments. Disney has amazing facilities, amazing rides, and the people who work there are excited to be there.

Some Favorite Disney Rides

Here are some of the rides that stood out to me the most and why.

Dinosaur

The first is Dinosaur. It’s a combination track ride and motion simulator ride that’s very fun. You get inside a jeep and travel back in time to rescue a living dinosaur before it’s extinct. You arrive on the prehistoric scene just as an asteroid is about to strike Earth.

So, you have to evade carnivorous dinosaurs, grab your dino, and get back before the asteroid hits. The jeep bucks and pitches in sync with the visuals, special effects, and sounds—this makes the experience all the more engaging. And all the while the voice of the scientist is in the background to guide your mission—this made every moment feel very real.

It made me feel as if I were really back in time and that we had to track down and capture a dinosaur.

Expedition Everest

Another of my favorites is a ride called Expedition Everest. It’s a roller coaster that is full of thrills and surprises.

While you wait in line, you make your way through an area modeled after a Nepalese village. There you see all sorts of posted notes from previous expeditions, pictures hanging on the wall, and warning signs to beware of the Yeti. You encounter this abominable snow creature later on the high-speed coaster ride itself.

Expedition Everest tells a story that the rider becomes part of—it’s more than just a roller coaster.

Takeaways from our Disney Adventure

Once we debriefed the trip as a team, we talked about our biggest takeaways and what we could apply to our own kids’ ministry.

  • One of my team members mentioned the outstanding customer service they experienced—always.
  • Another talked about how all the staff wore uniforms, so it was easy to pick them out of a crowd if you needed anything.
  • Someone else mentioned that they all used a common language. Every worker used phrases like “have a magical day” with the intention of making everyone’s experience amazing. We saw this clearly from the behavior of each staff member and worker.

Empowered Kids has so much potential to be creative like this. What we lack is the staff and—most of all—the resources and budget to take our production to the next level in our ministry. My prayer and hope are for those things to change.

Disney World inspired me so much so that I shared my experience and thoughts with the worship, media, and storyteller teams at one of our Power Sessions—our quarterly trainings where we cast vision and train our leaders on practical ministry.

Check out this children’s ministry resource. ↓

Get colorful and practical with awesome posters for you children’s ministry! With the Bible Memory Poster Pack, kids will memorize key Bible verses and be reminded of who God is and what He has done for them. With the Bible Tools Poster Pack, kids will explore Old and New Testament maps, discover through Bible time lines that God offers salvation to all people, learn Bible tips and tools, and be challenged to memorize the names and order of the books of the Bible. 

Check out this children’s ministry resource. ↓

Get colorful and practical with awesome posters for you children’s ministry! With the Bible Memory Poster Pack, kids will memorize key Bible verses and be reminded of who God is and what He has done for them. With the Bible Tools Poster Pack, kids will explore Old and New Testament maps, discover through Bible time lines that God offers salvation to all people, learn Bible tips and tools, and be challenged to memorize the names and order of the books of the Bible. 

Add a “Disney World Twist”

Programming and production are key elements in children’s ministry. If we don’t step up our game—and we aren’t good stewards of what we have—why would the Lord entrust us with more?

In this vein, I’m starting to hold our staff and key leaders accountable for what happens on the stage each week. During every debrief, I’m asking this question: Did we add a “Disney World twist” on what we just did? Or was it just the same old thing we usually do every Sunday?

I want our kids to be excited to come to church and have fun learning about God.

Our team trip to Disney World inspired me to be more intentional with what we are doing on the weekends. I want our kids to be excited to come to church and have fun learning about God.

Thoughtful boy pretending to be astronaut at home
Image Credit: Hero Images/Hero Images/Getty Images

I looked at my team and said these words, “If Disney World can tell a story using creative elements, why can’t our ministry do the same?”

Engage Kids’ Senses

What impressed me most about both of those Disney rides were the details that went into their environments.

The Dinosaur ride was all about going back into time. They wanted people to feel like they were back in time. They used sound bites, smells, and visuals to make this happen. The same is true for Expedition Everest. So, the question is: Why does this matter?

Why should we make creating attractive environments such a huge value in our ministries?

In his book Creating Ever-Cool: A Marketer’s Guide to a Kid’s Heart, Gene Del Vecchio talks about the importance of reaching kids through 3 senses. These senses are visual, auditory, and kinesthetic (through touch).

To be attractive visually is one of the most effective ways to reach this generation. Notice I didn’t say “save them”, I said “attract them”. The gospel will save them, but your environment—which encompasses the look, tone, and feel of your facilities—will attract them.

And you always want to make sure that your environment appeals first to the 5th grade boy. If the 5th grade boy loves it, other kids will follow suit.

Be Strategic—and Creative!—with Your Theme

Picking a theme for your environment is a huge part of your strategy and should be very intentional. Some of the most popular themes are underwater, sports, and adventure.

Your theme, the colors you chose, your signage—even the font you chose for the signage—will play a huge role in how you brand your ministry. So, choose wisely!

Don’t let budget or finances hold you back from being creative. When I worked in a small church, we had people who were passionate about designing and building things. We also had people who were artistic.

One key to executing your creative vision in your ministry, is to lean on the strengths and talents of those whom God has entrusted in your care. Cast the vision, paint a clear picture of what you need, and then allow them to own it!

As leaders, let us always keep Ephesians 4:11,12 in mind. Our job is to equip the saints for the work of the ministry.

Now these are the gifts Christ gave to the church: the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, and the pastors and teachers. 12 Their responsibility is to equip God’s people to do his work and build up the church, the body of Christ.

Ephesians 4:11,12

Once you’ve chosen your theme, get creative! Use signage with color, fun font styles, cool names that tie into your theme—get creative and don’t hold back!

Remember: this is kids’ ministry, so whatever you do, it has to be relatable to kids.

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  Updated on September 11, 2019

About the Author

  • Chad Owens is the Children's Pastor at Water of Life Community Church in Fontana, California. Chad is passionate about coaching other children's leaders, building and developing teams, and creating an environment where kids and families come to know Jesus in a greater way! Chad is married to the beautiful Alicia Owens, and they have one 5-year-old son, Andre.

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