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By Mairi Nasr, Children and Families Worker, Bearsden BC
Our children’s group at church is normally called Kidzone, but we are now ‘Kidzone in the Garden’ and have been operating entirely outdoors in our church grounds since Sunday August 16th. We originally decided on this because, as we all know, it is safer to meet people outdoors, but now, even as winter approaches, our children and parents do not want to come indoors anymore! Why?
Well, the experience of worshipping outdoors seems to be having a positive impact on the faith development of the children and, in some cases, the entire family. The results of doing children’s ministry in the outdoors have been astounding. There is so much joy and excitement as the children feel free and they have lots of space.
We have noticed that the children aren’t exhibiting the same ‘behaviours’ as often happened indoors. As well as this, just as woodland learning produces calm and well-being, so is spiritual connection deepened and enhanced when in nature. The children listen well, can practice stillness, and are praying more.
As well as reaping the benefits of outdoor learning and outdoor play according to the ethos of the Forest Schools movement, i.e. better health and wellbeing, we are finding that it is easier to develop faith themes in the outdoors because we are immersed in God’s creation. Many stories in the Bible took place outdoors.
Because it is so easy to socially distance in the extensive garden and woodland, the parents are choosing to stay and wait for their children. They are provided with a prayer reflection to do around the garden. The spiritual reflections for the parents are to be found via QR codes which are positioned around the grounds. Two prayer walks can be found this way: one for adults and one for children. Some garden reflections from the Quiet Garden Movement can be utilised this way too.
We have an all-age opening and ending, so that we can share the theme of our morning’s session with the adults too. Families from other churches are now coming along as well.