Opening Doors To Discipleship is a series of four courses in the Presbyterian/Reformed tradition to help teachers and leaders equip themselves to be faithful teachers and leaders.

Recapturing the Gift of Play

When I answered the phone, my two-year-old granddaughter Kalyn said, “Pawpaw, can Mawmaw come to my house and play?” I laughed and said, “Well, I don’t know. I’ll let you talk to Mawmaw.” Play is important to children. Too bad it has the reputation among adults as being what you do when your work is completed.

The church as a community of faith concerned with the whole of persons ought to recapture play as a gift of God. Consider the following reasons why play is important in the life of the church.

• Play provides a time for relationships to be built. While the activity of play is important, the relationship is of the utmost importance.

• Play creates an environment for “safe interactions among individuals.” Healthy play can encourage interaction that can make touch and connection with one another acceptable and affirming.

• Play can build community and create an environment of acceptance and belonging.

• Play has the capacity to encourage personal growth and positive self-esteem. This is especially the case when games and activities are structured to reduce competitiveness and create avenues for creative self-expression and skill development.

• Play has the potential for strengthening our bodies. Being active helps to tone our bodies and in some ways our very spirits. Play is where our bodies connect with our spirits.

• Play is where our spiritual development is garnished with laughter and light-heartedness.

• Play is where we can relax from the pressures of our day.

• Play can put us in touch with God’s creation.

“Play is silly and fun and wild and goofy. That is what makes it play! That is why we are drawn to it. When God created the world, it was done with imagination and a sense of adventure. That same imagination and sense of adventure exist within us, and it is when we have these opportunities to play, to create, and to experience life to its fullest that we truly understand what it means to be in the presence of God.” (Mark Montgomery, Outdoor Ministries Program Leadership Manual)

As God’s gift, play has the power to transform our lives. If two-year-old Kalyn could name it rather than just do it, she would tell you that there’s nothing like playing with her Mawmaw to help her feel connected, cared for, important, joyful, energized, secure, loved, and more fulfilled as a person. It’s time for the church to recapture the “gift” of play!

By Frank Ward, former Discipleship Ministry Team Leader, Cumberland Presbyterian Church.