by Cindy Fiala
It’s funny isn’t it? Environments are just places, but given the right attention and creativity, an environment will evoke:
Environments begin with a physical place, but have the potential to be the catalyst where life change and purpose take root in a person’s life. Where faces transform into friends and friends into family. Because sometimes you want to go somewhere where everybody knows your name, and they’re always glad you came . . . okay, I’ll stop now!
“Places,” or environments, are significant because they give us a sense of identity and worth. We attach memories and relationships and we connect moments to our hearts through environments. “Place” matters. Close your eyes for a second and think about your happiest moment. I’m guessing that memory includes a few things: a place or surrounding, maybe a smell and the people who were there with you. (I wouldn’t be surprised if that place included a famous mouse and Space Mountain.)
When it comes to the environments we create for family ministry, we have to pay close attention. Because whether we like to admit it or not, people will make a decision about who we are within the first several minutes of entering our environments. That impression can be the difference between just visiting or coming back next week. And on a larger scale, it has the potential to either lead people to Christ, or leave them with a bitter taste in their mouths toward God and His people.
Of course, an environment is way more than just an appealing building, a cool kids wing or a shiny student space—complete with fog machine. It’s a place that invites people in. The right environment nurtures us, doesn’t it? It’s a soft place to land. The perfect environment gives us a sense of security and warmth, friendship and comfort. It feels like a place where we can be safe, vulnerable and curious.
One of our goals should be that every kid—preschool through high school—not only feels comfortable in the spaces and environments we provide and create, but each kid should be drawn to them by the people and the values set in place.
We should strive to create spaces that foster relationships and community. Our environments shouldn’t just attract kids and students either. What if we created environments that actually did something more? What if environments connected with parents and inspired them to take their next right step as the primary spiritual influencers in their kids’ lives? What if the places and spaces we provide and create actually moved them from being parents who are merely aware, to parents who are involved or engaged—and ultimately invested? What if we can create environments that actually move parents to have regular spiritual conversations at home with their families?
Cindy Fiala is the family ministry pastor at Preston Trail Community Church in Frisco, Texas.
This blog article was excerpted from the e-single First Impressions: Creating Environments that Help Parents and Kids Feel Welcomed by Cindy Fiala. Get this entire e-single for free with a subscription to GoWeekly—a library of resources for church leaders. Learn more about GoWeekly at goweekly.com. For more e-singles about developing small group leaders and engaging parents, check out the You Lead Book Series on Amazon.