This participatory action research project asks the question, ‘Should Playwork Principles apply to Children’s Ministry?’ It seeks to understand perceptions of play in Children’s Ministry from the perspectives of children in a Sunday morning group for children in school year three and four, the Children’s Ministry Leaders and volunteers in an evangelical church in the East Midlands.
A review of literature relevant to our understanding of play and the role of play in Children’s Ministry is conducted. This provides an understanding of and suggestions for play-based Children’s Ministry.
Current models of Children’s Ministry tend to mimic an educational model. This is not effective in engaging children, as children prefer an active and participative approach. Play provides space for children to participate, freely explore and experience God and the Christian faith. A play-based approach, it is argued provides participation, freedom, space and choice for children and reflects the approach taken by Jesus when he placed a child in the midst of a theological debate and puts children at the centre of how Children’s Ministry is implemented.
The research included an interview with the Children’s Ministry Leader, a consultation group with volunteers involved in Children’s Ministry and participative action research using photos with twelve children in school years three and four. The research revealed views that reflect current understanding of Children’s Ministry as an educational model but with inclusion of play and activities to ensure Children’s Ministry is more engaging. Play, space for children to participate, freely explore and experience God and the Christian faith was perceived positively with openness to developing resources and space for play in partnership with children and a desire for further understanding and training on a play-based approach to Children’s Ministry. Participatory action research with children gave insight into how children play and their perceptions of activities used in Children’s Ministry, providing awareness of what activities they consider play.
Tonia studied with MCYM for 3 years achieving a first class BA (Hons) in Childrens and Family Work and Practical Theology