A couple of years ago, our congregation remodeled and built an addition on to our church. After using the new space for four weeks, parents noticed that sometimes they couldn’t find their 4th to 6th grade boys. After the adults had spent time talking over coffee, they would be looking for them in our newly enlarged Fellowship Hall and the boys would seem to just show up.
One week a parent noticed that her son was taking a flashlight with him to church. Puzzled, she asked what the flashlight was for. Her son explained that the boys were going on adventures in the church basement and the flashlight would let them see better. Suddenly the dirty, dusty pants the boys had after worship also made sense. Our church basement is used only for storage and was not part of the remodel or the addition. It was not a kid-friendly environment. It wasn’t really adult friendly either. We really didn’t want the kids exploring down in it.
Before the addition, the kids felt comfortable in our building and knew the places where they could hang out and socialize while their parents did the same thing. The new spaces meant that they could not use their old places in the same way, so they got creative. As a congregation, we really don’t want our kids or our teens shuffling off to some corner of the building. We want the kids to be comfortable in the same spaces that the teens and adults are in so that we can interact informally. We saw a need to make the spaces in the church more child friendly.
Some of our church staff got a good idea. We placed three sets of Jenga blocks in baskets on the new side tables. Jenga is a game where you build a tower with the blocks and then players take turns removing blocks and putting them on top of the tower without causing the tower to fall. Jenga pieces are large enough to leave out in a place with young children but they also are wooden and look good. Kids of all ages started using them in constructive ways we did not anticipate. They were building structures of all types with the wooden pieces during their down time at church. Even the one year olds would carry a block in each hand as they walked around church.
It worked! Jenga blocks encouraged the kids to stay out of the basement and made the new space more child friendly. The Jenga blocks have helped to made our church a place where everyone belongs.