The Design Thinking Process-Design A Children’s Ministry Space



The Design Thinking Process-Design A Children’s Ministry Space

#1: Understand. Develop Background Knowledge

Observe your  physical spaces.  Talk with your Children’s Ministry Team of children, church leaders, church members, and community members. Talk about what the Children’s Ministry is doing.  Ask questions and reflect on what is seen. Throughout this process, develop a sense of empathy.  Explore the web, and get information for other designed Children Ministry spaces.


Little Mountain specializes in children’s, youth and adult spaces creating stage sets, themed environments, interior design and digital puppetry.


#2: Point of view.  Focus on becoming aware of the needs of the Children’s Ministry space, and develop insights.   How will changes  that will have an impact on the children’s experiences be made in the space?

How might we engage the culture of our Children’s Ministry?

How might we show and invite all cultures of people into the  space?

How might we have children move through the space?


How might children engage in our experience design?

How might we support our Children’s Ministry narrative?

How might we make our children feel powerful by having a clear cause and effect on their immediate environment?

How might we create sharable stories that children, parents, and church members tell through word-of-mouth in the community and social media?

How might we make use of best practices with technology to merge the Children’s Ministry space with digital spaces.

How might we design a free mobile app that serves as a guide and memory book in order to enhance the children’s experience while in the space.  For example, access to interesting biblical facts and photos of the surroundings.

How might we design a way that children and caregivers can take and place favorite pictures and memories from their visit into a personalized memory book.  This book can be  shared using social media and kiosks onsite at the church.

How might we involve volunteer teen techies and techies locally, nationally, and internationally, in our Design group?

How might we make our Children’s Ministry space accessible to children and caregivers with disabilities.

How might we make use of a themed approach?

How might we eliminate hallways with corridors?.  How can we create assembly spaces for a group experience, with breakout rooms.


#3: Ideate.  Brainstorm an immeasurable categorization of ideas.  Take this action with merriment.  Suspend judgement.  No idea is far-fetched.  No one’s ideas are rejected.  Create. Become wishful thinkers and risk takers.

According to Feinberg & Keller, 2010, who wrote “Designing Space for Children and Teens in Libraries and Public Places”…Always keep in mind that the perception of scale for children is horizontal.  Children love small nooks or portals that are in scales with their own size.  Think about children crawling, walking, and sitting on the floor.


#4: Prototype.  Sketch and build models of the Children’s ministry teams ideas.

Don’t forget to add outdoor learning opportunities that  promote a direct experience with nature, and foster a sense of community and responsibility for the natural environment.

#5: Test.  Discuss what works and what doesn’t.  Then go back and modify the prototype.

Dream, create, and design a fantastic Children’s Ministry Space.




Knowledge is Power

Knowledge is Power

I have always been a natural “learner” and read a lot (professionally) so it comes as no surprise that I would embark on a journey to become a doctoral candidate. What is surprising or exciting, however, is to find a program that is action oriented and honors and nurtures professional creativity while simultaneously enlightening one’s knowledge and understanding of the world in so many dimensions. The Creativity and Generative Design in Education Learning Community at the University of Missouri-St. Louis campus is defined as a “program of study that will nurture professional creativity towards revolutionizing the systems, structure, and cultures that form our current educational landscape. The emphasis will be on utilizing the wisdom of the learning sciences and art and design to develop thoughtful and intentional educational leaders who seek to explore and create innovative solutions to existing educational challenges.

Central to the program of study is a focus on the processes and structures leading to the design, prototyping, and testing of various models that create, re-design or radically alter the ways we construct learning environments, whether they are in schools, in communities, in hospitals, in government or corporations. “ While I have only been a part of this program for seven weeks, I am beyond excited about what this program promises to bring to my professional and personal life!


How I got to now…

Bounce, written by Matthew Syed, and Purposeful Practice

No matter the profession you are in, Bounce is a critical read. On page 5, About the Book, Syed writes, “The simple and rather seductive idea (is) that excellence is reserved for a select group of individuals-winners in a genetic lottery that passed the rest of us by. This book…is written as a direct challenge to this perspective.”

Some important concepts discussed in Bounce are purposeful practice, the power of long experiences and deep knowledge, failure, feedback, the amazing capacity of our brain to change, the power of Mindset as researched by Carol Dweck, the power of beliefs, the power of positive thinking and imagery, the differences between experts and novices, and the role environment can play in “talent”. Two key concepts that are resonating with me at this moment are purposeful practice and the power of knowledge. Purposeful practice can be described in the following ways:

  • Challenging – striving for targets just out of reach
  • Considerable, specific, and sustained effort to do something well that you couldn’t before
  • Pushing yourself longer and harder
  • Quality of practice (deliberate practice), training smarter
  • Being pushed beyond existing limits
  • Constant repetition and deep concentration

When learning about purposeful practice, as Syed described and defined, I could not help myself from connecting this to school learning. If teachers could be more deliberate about the instruction they deliver, have more time to think deeply in order to plan, be more responsive to students’ needs, not worry about following a program with “fidelity”, or the outcomes of standardized tests, would our students’ performance increase? I believe it would with deep, thoughtful purposeful (instruction) and practice delivered by creative teachers.

Responsive Design

We then learned about Responsive Design. RD is an empathetic approach to creating prototypes of practice through the process of exploring, envisioning, and enacting. This fairly simple process of creativity is perfect for educators, professional who are in the business of people, and for whom time is often an obstacle.


Working in the role of reading specialist I get wrapped up in data, research, and fidelity. What this program has done for me is allowed me to use the “book knowledge” I have from all the professional reading I have done in my 20 years of education to prototype or design practices that meet the needs of individual students. I see it as taking the best practices I know to create a program with specific kids in mind. I am envisioning “prototyping” programs for all of the groups of children I see using the 3E’s process outlined in Responsive Design. On page 94 Syed writes, “We have seen that in any complex task (and I believe teaching and instruction would qualify as a complex task) it is knowledge, above all, that determines excellence; the kind of knowledge built through deep experience and encoded in the brain and central nervous system.”

A Call to Action

Teachers, it is time to take action and as UMSL’s program description states, use the wisdom of the learning sciences and art and design to develop thoughtful and intentional educational leaders who seek to explore and create innovative solutions to existing educational challenges. We are professionals who think deeply and care deeply about our students and their success. We CAN make a difference.


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