My family and I recently spent a week at the beach and decided to make a 1-day trip to Disney World while we were there. So we packed up all the snacks and diapers and spent a day at Magic Kingdom with our 1.5-year-old. It was a blast! While we were riding Dumbo, waving to Winnie the Pooh, and eating Dole whip, I noticed a few of Disney’s priorities that are good reminders for children’s ministry leaders too:
Prioritize kids. This one seems obvious, but it’s a good reminder. Disney World prioritizes kids, especially in kid-specific areas of the parks and around kid-specific rides. There are designated stroller parking zones throughout the park to make it easy for families to leave their belongings in a safe place while riding. These stroller parking zones take up space and may be inconvenient to maintain, but they enhance the guest experience exponentially. Cast members even looked out for those of us with strollers and little ones, interacting with my daughter just as much as they interacted with us as adults. Does your ministry prioritize engaging kids when they walk in the doors? Are your greeters trained to say hello to the kids too, not just interact with the parents? Are your practices and facilities set up to help families feel welcome and know where to go? Sometimes we can get so caught up in curriculum and programming we forget about the kids we are called to lead.
Prioritize fun. Everyone knows waiting in line is just part of the experience at any park, but Disney does a great job of making even the most mundane tasks fun! We rode Dumbo 3 times, so I became very acquainted with the line. Disney built a play area into the queue itself, so you can spend your wait time playing rather than standing in line. And the Winnie the Pooh ride had interactive elements throughout the queue, making our 45-minute wait with a toddler seem not so bad. I’m sure you have elements of fun in your children’s ministry but are there areas, even seemingly boring areas, where you could infuse a little excitement? Maybe it’s your check-in/check-out process? Maybe it’s your volunteer training? Maybe it’s the way you do announcements? Whatever it is, look for ways to make even the not-so-exciting parts of ministry fun!
Prioritize safety. The week before we went, Disney re-instated their mask policies for all indoor locations, while standing in line, and while on rides. They had signs posted as reminders, and each ride had several hand sanitizer stations both in the line and when exiting the ride. Their updated parade schedule prevent large crowds from gathering at one time, helping foot traffic flow more smoothly. Take a look around your children’s ministry area with a critical eye for a moment. Are there any physical spaces that need readjusting? Do you have sufficient signage for any mask policies? Is there any part of your Sunday morning schedule that could use some tightening up when it comes to safety? Have you updated your policies and procedures since the pandemic? Safety is a major factor for families in determining if they’ll return to your church, so it must be a priority.
Prioritize creativity. While on vacation, we watched Behind the Attraction, a new documentary series on Disney+ that goes behind the scenes on the creation, building, and renovating of some of the most popular Disney rides. One common thread throughout the series was this quote from Walt Disney himself: “Disneyland will never be completed. It will continue to grow as long as there is imagination left in the world.” Disney prioritizes creativity, and they find ways to preserve the classics while adding a new twist for the next generation. They work hard to prevent anything from becoming stale or outdated, and they don’t stick with something just because that’s how it’s always been done. They also find creative solutions to any problems they face, making sure their overall vision comes to life with excellence. Are there any events or activities in your ministry you could update, or even let go of? What could you do to add an exciting twist to a classic ministry event? Can you set aside time to creatively brainstorm solutions to a reoccurring problem? How can you get creative in the way you teach or interact with parents? There’s still imagination left in the world of ministry, so let’s use it to reach the next generation for Christ.
We definitely don’t have Disney’s budget or manpower, but we can improve our ministries and make them more effective by prioritizing these 4 things. And since I always learn something from Disney when I go, here are 3 more ministry tips from the mouse.