We often speak of spring cleaning as a time to cleanse and refresh our spaces in preparation for how we hope to use them in the season ahead. With spring and Easter being so closely tied, we could even call spring cleaning an act of resurrection. What might change if we considered refreshing our faith formation spaces as an Easter expression of hope that empowers us to take action, rather than thinking of it as cleaning and organizational chores?
As we prepare for service activities, vacation Bible school, and summer camp or curriculum planning for the fall, I invite you to examine your physical spaces as an expression of your mission. If you believe strongly in equity and inclusion, would a visitor know that by examining the artwork on your walls? Respect for diversity can be reflected in the foods in your play kitchen and your instruments for music making, the faces and features on your coloring pages, or the covers of your book selection. Is the music you play or the songs you sing when youth gather reflective of diverse cultures and artists? There are many helpful questions to ask that express care for all youth regardless of background or origin without saying a word. Inclusion can also be considered in learning style and behavioral needs. Do you have quiet or small-group-friendly spaces for youth who are easily overstimulated by the frequently used large group and open space format? Are quiet “fidget” activities to offer stimulation or self-soothing available even for older youth?
Many youth leaders express frustration that fewer youth are participating in our physical spaces than in previous years, so spring cleaning can be part of adaptation to this new era of faith formation as well. Donating or removing outdated materials and replacing them with curriculum that has a built-in hybrid component or digital capability allows young people to participate and receive support and empowerment for a life of discipleship when they are not in the church’s physical space. Activities that youth can take home and do with their family or friends are practice for sharing faith stories and clarifying emerging belief. The removal of that which no longer serves can help us make room to embrace what is now possible.
Refreshing your faith formation space is also a perfect time to engage youth in acting as co-creators in their own spaces. Rather than using discarded decor or choosing materials as adult leaders, what might it be like to engage young people in age-appropriate ways to shape the direction of their own learning space? If we see our spaces as an expression of resurrection and new life, the present and future church alive in our youth, we can set and live out learning priorities in deed as well as word.