WNMD Kids Ministry Blog

Blog for the Wisconsin/ Northern Michigan Ministries Network Children's Ministries

In Defense of Play


Does play need to be defended?  Maybe.  Let me explain. Kids have less and less free play time.  It has been declining for decades.  In an article in the American Journal of Play[1] (Yes, there is such a journal) Dr, Peter Gray states that, “over the past half century or so, in the United States and in some other developed nations, opportunities for children to play, especially to play outdoors with other children, have continually declined. Over this same period, measures of psychopathology in children and adolescents—including indices of anxiety, depression, feelings of helplessness, and narcissism—have continually increased. “

Gray asserts that free play, (an activity that is freely chosen and directed by the participants and undertake for its own sake) is valuable in the psychological development of children.

In the 70’s and 80’s, you could walk through almost any park in America and find kids involved in free play. Today it is hard to find groups of children outdoors much less at parks. And if you do see them there are coaches and refs involved. According to Gray that in the time period between 1981 and 1997 researchers from the University of Michigan found that six to eight-year-olds had a 25% decrease in time spent playing.

Just ask yourself if you are over 30 years old, do you see more kids playing outside compared to when you were a kid? I know it is markedly different today.   I’m sure that the lure of television and computers have taken away a lot of that free time, but it is still true that most kids would rather have free play outside if given the opportunity.

Parents also fear allowing their kids to play outside. There is the fear of abduction and getting hurt. Parents just don’t trust that outdoor play is safe anymore.

Unfortunately, over this same time period, childhood and adolescent mental health have declined. Researchers have noted an increase in anxiety and depression, a reduced sense of personal control and increased narcissism.

Because the mental health of children has deteriorated that doesn’t necessarily mean it was caused by a lack of free play. However, there is a growing body of evidence that the two are linked. Free play is by definition an intrinsic activity.  There is a reason to believe that a shift from intrinsic motivations and more towards extrinsic motivation children are more apt to feel pressures that in turn breed harmful emotions. Kids today crave adults who provide extrinsic motivation and praise and when that doesn’t meet their expectations they are less secure emotionally.   This leads to narcissism.

Gray then list specific ways that play promotes mental health.

1. In Play, Children Develop Intrinsic Interests and Competencies.

           Kids play because they want to. It is an intrinsic reward. They aren’t working for the trophy, they aren’t striving for the grade. Instead, they play for their own interests. They develop their own competencies as a result.

2.  In Play, Children Learn How to Make Decisions, Solve Problems, Exert Self-Control, and Follow Rules.

           When adults ALWAYS direct the kids, boys and girls don’t necessarily learn self-control. They don’t learn how to solve their own problems. When they are involved in free play they have to learn the skills necessary to decide how they are going
           to play.

3.  In Play, Children learn to Regulate their Emotions.

This is a big one. As kids play they are moving their body all over. They are leap and swing. They have to learn how to regulate their bodies and at the same time they have to learn how to regulate their emotions.   If it is stressful or fearful, they have to learn how to deal with the situation.   I see too many kids who haven’t learned this and when they do engage it is a mess. They are fighting and having meltdowns and don’t know how to regulate their emotions. Play helps them learn the skills needed.

4.  In Play, Children make Friends, and Learn to Get Along with Others as Equals.

Kids learn to get along when they play. If someone is not playing nice kids quit. When kids quit even the child who wasn’t playing nice ends up without people with whom to play.   Kids also learn how to treat one another

5.  Social Play makes Children Happy, and its Absence Makes Them Unhappy.

    1. This seems to be the crux of the argument for Gray. Play is a key to mental health in children. It is not just any play, it is free play. Kids need free play. If they don’t get it our society will suffer.


So What Does This Imply For the Kidmin Leader?

I think there are a number of takeaways that we need to be mindful of.

  1. We need to encourage parents to allow their children to have free play.   Kids need to get out and play.

  2. Kids need to have friends that they can connect with.

  3. As kid’s leaders, we need to resist the temptation to minimize play. Play is vital. Kids need to come to our churches and be allowed to play.

  4. I also think that play doesn’t have to be just to teach a lesson to the kids. Play can be spontaneous, and it should be. I know I often feel like every game, every image, every word I say should be tied into the lesson I’m teaching.

I realize that we have only a short time with the boys and girls and that we need to make the most of every opportunity. But maybe sometimes the opportunity is just to play. I also know how I think sometimes. I find a game I like, and I have to think what lesson can I teach? Or I think how can I force a truth into this lesson? I do it all the time. There is nothing wrong with that. Maybe there is a lesson to be learned. But it is just as important to allow kids to develop how God made them. He made them to play. Kids leaders need permission to allow free play.

The church is a place that values the way kids are wired and we need to provide an outlet for their play.

It’s that simple. Play is part of God’s design. How do I know that?  I think play is a Scriptural response to God and His creation.

Proverbs 8:29-31 states, New King James Version (NKJV)

29 When He assigned to the sea its limit, So that the waters would not transgress His command,
When He marked out the foundations of the earth,
30 Then I was beside Him as a master craftsman;[a] And I was daily His delight, Rejoicing always before Him, 31 Rejoicing in His inhabited world, And my delight was with the sons of men.

I want to be rejoicing always before God.  Rejoicing in His creation and delighting in the relationships fostered in play.

I think God can use the church to be a vessel to allow kids to have a safe place to play and learn about Him.  I think the church can also be a great agent of reminding parents and society of the need to foster emotionally healthy kids by allowing kids to be kids.  


[1] Gray P. The Decline Of Play And The Rise Of Psychopathology In Children And Adolescents. 3rd ed.; 2011:443-463. Available at: http://www.journalofplay.org/sites/www.journalofplay.org/files/pdf-articles/3-4-article-gray-decline-of-play.pdf. Accessed May 11, 2018.

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What keeps you up at night?  Not much for me.  I go to sleep right away.  But if something has me thinking late into the night, it is the 4/14 window.  It is the opportunity we have to reach kids for Christ.  I'm also aware that the window is getting smaller and younger.  To finish well, we must reach this age group and we must reach their parents.  Today I discovered something that shocked me and kinda shook me a little.  I'll explain just a little later.  But first, here is a quote I have been pondering this week.



Twenty years ago, the phrase was, ‘If you don’t reach a young person by 18, you probably won’t reach them. Now, atheists and agnostics have the same access to your kids as you do; it’s just one click away. The Internet has leveled the playing field, and now if you don’t reach a child by their 12th birthday, you won’t reach them.”  - Josh McDowell


The 4/14 window is real.   We need to reach kids now.   I'm so appreciative of the 4/14 movement men and women who continue to keep this before us as  minister to kids.  Just this past week I had the awesome opportunity to preach at one of our churches in  our network.   One topic that I never get tired of talking about is reaching kids.   As we get near the end of this year we realize that our opportunity to make a difference in 2017 is coming to an end.  We had all the Christmas programs and are getting ready for our Christmas services.  

From the 10/40 window to the 4/14 window.   

In 1989 Dr. Luis Bush described the 10/40 window and it was an inportant concept in world missions.   What he basically said was between 10 degrees north and 40 degees on the equator lies the greatest unreached peoples of the world.  90 percent of that population is non-Christian.  What a great missions opportunity.

In 2008 Dr. Bush spoke of a new window - the 4/14 window.  Between the ages of 4 and 14 nearly 85% of the decisions for Christ are made.  It is also maybe the largest unreached group in the world.  Over 2.4 Billion people are between this age.  Unfortunately, it has been reported than only 3% of our world missions is spent in reaching kids.  

This has to be an area of concern.  So I'm thinking on this


2.  Video 

Here is a great video on the 4/14 movement



This opportunity to reach boys and girls is shrinking and just today I realized that we all need to do our part and be a part of this movement.  Just today I went to go on the http://www.4to14window.com/ and realized that the website is closed.  It has expired.

I started thinking about our part in reaching this generation.  I pray that when families who have kids in this age group, when they show up that we are available to share the Good News with them.  

I have sent a Facebook message to their Facebook page.  I hope this is just a temporary situation.   I realize that websites come and go, but it hit me today.  I want to be there for this age group.  I don't want our ministry to this age group to expire.  We need men and women to champion the cause of Christ by reaching this group. Maybe you will be that one!


4.  The Source


The source is a great opportunity to bring your whole children's ministry team for connecting with other kidmin leaders, being equipped for ministry and being inspired. 

It is because of the Source I know that we are equipping leaders to reach this 4/14 window. 

We have classes for elementary leaders, small group leaders, preschool.  

January 12 & 13
Fox Valley Christian Fellowship
1200 West Kimberly Ave, Kimberly, WI
Learn more at:

5.  Tru Fire Demo

Finally, we have a fantastic presentation of the Tru Fire curriculum at The Source.  If you are using the curriculum and want to learn more, or if you are thinking about using the curriculum this is a great opportunity to hear Alycia Horn from the National Children's Ministry Leadership team give a great demo.   If you are just interested in learning some new techniques to add to your kids ministry group, you won't want to miss this.  
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We've entered into the final month of 2017.  Here are a few thoughts as we get ready to finish the year. 



1.  Dan Gable

Yes, it's wrestling season and I'm excited to watch high school and collegiate wrestling.  The guy who I always equate with finishing strong in wrestling is Dan Gable.  Gable only lost one match in college. As a matter of fact, he went 64-0 in high school and 117-0 in college.  He had already won two NCAA titles and he was prepared to finish the season undefeated and a three-time NCAA champion.  But the unspeakable happened.  Maybe the largest upset in wrestling history.  Gable lost his last match.  So how is that finishing strong?  Let me fill in a few details.  There was this guy Larry Owings who knew that if he wanted to be known as the best he had to beat Gable.  He dropped two weight classes to wrestle Gable.  He came with one thing in mind, beat Dan Gable.  So on that fateful day on March 28, 1970, going into the final period Gable was leading 10-9.  Gable didn't want to win by one point he wanted to pin Owings.  Gable went for it but then Larry Owings did a move on Dan Gable he had never done in a college match before.  He completed a leg sweep on Gable and exposed his back for points.   Owings went on to win 13-11.  The watching world was astonished.  They came to crown Gable but the tables were turned by the giant killer Owings.  Gable was stunned and received his second place award with his head lowered and a tear in his eye.   He felt he had let everyone down.   But the crowd kept cheering.  One of Gable's teammates told him they won't stop until he raises his head.  He raised his head and the crowd stopped.  That moment as hard as it was defined Gable.  It is the stuff of legend.   

Gable later said,“I say that I went undefeated for seven years, lost a match, and then I got good,” 

Gable went on to defeat Owings later for the US Olympic team.  Then he went on to win the Gold medal at the Olympics in 1972.  He went the whole tournament not being scored upon.  In world competition that is so impressive.  He went on to be a legend as a coach and a competitor.  He didn't let that last match defeat him, he finished strong.  As 2017 is in the last period, it is important to finish strong. 

"Gold medals aren't really made of gold. They're made of sweat, determination, and a hard-to-find alloy called guts." - Dan Gable


picture perfect32.  Thanks for a Picture Perfect Year!

The servant leaders in our ministry need to know that they are appreciated.  Actually, it needs to be done often.  But at the end of the year, it is a great time to show appreciation to those who work so hard throughout the year.  This is a great time to head out to the store and buy popcorn tins and other items as appreciation gifts.  They don't have to be expensive but they can say a lot to our leaders.   If you look at Pinterest there are so many appreciation ideas.   Here is one link that has about 150 ideas to show appreciation to our kidmin leaders.   


No matter what time of the year it is appreciation is important.   Although I like the big appreciation banquet, it is not the same as weekly giving an encouraging appreciation.  Various little reminders like the ones shared on the Pinterest page are a constant reminder that you thought of them during the week.  If I'm going to finish strong in ministry I have to appreciate the team that serves with me.   In kids ministry, it is often people who are not even in the same room as me.  They may be down the hall working in the nursery or the pre-school.  They don't see me.  They need me to be intentional in sharing my appreciation.

Another element of appreciation is finding out birthdays and anniversaries.   One thing I have always appreciated about our Superintendent Larry Liebe is I know I will receive a phone call on my birthday.   It's something that is not really big and certainly not expensive, but it is relational.  And relational ministry is a ministry that lasts.  






3.  It's the end of the year as we know it.

One of the tasks can get away from me if I don't take the time to plan ahead is the BGMC year-end.  We have been having a good year in BGMC and this last month can get away from us if we don't plan ahead.   Some churches hold their BGMC offering until the end of the year.  So it is important to talk to your treasurer about getting a check out for our missionaries.  Mary Boyd has put together an article about some last minute items that you may want to consider for the end of the year.  

You can read the article here:



As a network, we have helped our missionaries all over the world.  It has not gone without notice.  I hear from missionaries often how they received the necessary funds to fulfill a project in their ministry.  This has come through the help of boys and girls throughout our network and throughout the country.  As we get to the end of 2017 let's make it a great finish in BGMC! 





The source is a one-day training for your entire kid's ministry team.  This year for the kids ministry training we have preschool training and classroom training for teachers whether they lead a small group or a small ministry.  It is a time to come and connect with other leaders in our network and on your own team.  It is a time to be equipped and a time to be inspired.

We are excited to announce that one of our kidmin breakouts will feature a demonstration of the TruFire Curriculum.   This will be taught by Alycia Horn who is the Children’s Ministries Director of Discipleship for the Assemblies of God Children's Ministries Department.

Alycia will also be teaching a session on ministry to children. She is formerly an elementary and middle/high school educator who had the opportunity of working in both a Christian and public school setting. She was distinguished as Southern Indiana’s outstanding educator when receiving the Teacher of the Year Award and Kentucky’s WHAS ExCel Award for her innovation and enthusiastic teaching methodology. She’s worked in youth and children’s ministry for 16 years and counts it a privilege to be apart of helping kids fall in love with Jesus. One of her greatest passions is mentoring young girls and holding Bible studies in her home. Alycia and her husband Ryan, of 15 years, reside in Springfield, Missouri.


You can find out more about THE SOURCE at the studentmin website:



christmas xmas family holiday winter PR2MBHU


5.  Family

The final month of the year is often filled with all kinds of buzz and excitement.  There are kids programs, church programs, school programs.  The month can be a program.  One of the things not to neglect in this final month is our family.  Our family can often take a backseat if we let it.  During the end of the year, it is time to finish strong.  Every year at the beginning of the year I plan out my calendar.  This month I put on the calendar a couple of weeks of vacation. If I don't plan it, it will get away from me. 

Finish strong and keep your family dear this December.



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FINISH STRONG - 11-23-17


It's Thanksgiving and we have a lot to be thankful for.  I know that I do.  Being thankful is such an important element of ministry and kids ministry.   Today I have 5 things that I am thinking about Thanksgiving that relate to ministry.


1. “It’s one thing to be grateful. It’s another to give thanks. Gratitude is what you feel. Thanksgiving is what you do.” –Tim Keller

I really like this quote.   As a leader and a children's leader, I think it is important that we show thanks not only to God but to those with whom we work.  Thanksgiving is more than a feeling it is an action.  It is with word and deed we thank those with whom we work.



I was pretty surprised and amazed the other day.  I showed a picture of Bob and Larry from Veggietales to my Discovery Ranger boys on our club night and they had no idea who they were.   So this is probably new to a lot of people.  It is the Thankfulness Song from "Madame Blueberry."  It is an entire lesson on Thanksgiving.  This one minute song is appropriate for today.  I would suggest anyone who has not seen "Madame Blueberry" check it out.  It is one of my favorite Veggietales episodes.  



3.  Psalm 28:7 "The Lord is my strength and my shield; My heart trusts in Him, and I am helped; Therefore my heart exults, And with my song I shall thank Him."



4.  Thanksgiving can be a fabulous time to bring our families together to give thanks.  It can also be lost in the eating lots of food and watching endless hours of football.   It is important to remember the origins of Thanksgiving.  David Barton of Wall Builders has a short article that reminds us of our first Thanksgiving.   https://wallbuilders.com/celebrating-thanksgiving-america/



I am so thankful this year and I just want to say how thankful I have been to serve under the leadership of many men and women of God.  I am particularly thankful this Thanksgiving for the ministry of our District Superintendent Larry Liebe.  After 40 years serving in our district office, he has announced his retirement to start in June.  He has been a great leader and knows how to show thanks to those with whom he works.  Thank you, Larry, for your leadership and example.

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5 Things To Finish Strong - 11-17-17


Ending the week and finishing strong.  These are 5 things I am thinking about going into the weekend.  These are five tools, thoughts, ideas, books, websites or observations on life that I want to have in my life as I finish the race strong.


1.  Quote, I'm pondering this week.  - If I could relive my life, I would devote my entire ministry to reaching children for God. -D.L. Moody   Coming From D.L. Moody this is an incredible quote.   Moody was an incredible organizer, an incredible evangelist and here he says what he would do if he had to do it all over again.  As I finish the week I'm also thinking about what it takes to finish the race.  It's why I still volunteer in Royal Rangers.  I can't relive my life so I want to finish it right.  


2.  "Do you not know that those who run in a race all run, but only one receives the prize? Run in such a way that you may win."  1 Corinthians 9:24

3.  In my Royal Rangers class this next couple of weeks I'm teaching lessons on leadership.  A couple of things that stand out are using a child's name when addressing them.  This is so important.   Kids and adults love to hear their name.  As a leader, we need to use the first name of the boys and girls we lead.  Jesus tells us that a good shepherd knows his sheep (John 10:11).  He calls us by name.  
4.  The boys and girls of our communities are calling on us to be the church.  To be the church we need to connect with Christ and find His plan for our community to reach our communities kids.   I really love the videos that are produced by the Max7 organization.  If you are not familiar with Max7 they are a storehouse for children's ministry materials that are shared with the world of children's ministry leaders.  Here is an excellent video.  I often share this in sharing spreading the word for the need of kids ministry.
5.  This is my last point of this week.  It is my goal to keep writing each week at the end of the week 5 things that are spurring me one to keep running the race.   What is that keeps my wanting to reach kids for Christ?   I will share quotes, scripture, videos, thoughts, other blog posts.  Maybe it will spur you on as well.  I am doing this on my own for my own growth but I want to share it as well.  
I hope to make it a weekly feature, it may not be that.  But if I can I will.   If you would like to subscribe to the posts you can use the subscription button above.  
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