Builders’ Club inspires creativity

Rev Mark Illingworth, Minister at South Perth Uniting Church, was planning to start up a ‘Builders’ Club’ based at the church for lovers of Lego – and then came COVID-19. With physical distancing rules in place, Mark started the club online via Zoom.

Aimed at primary school aged children, the Builders’ Club encourages kids to get creative, build with Lego – or other building blocks – and connect through biblical stories. Mark said that each session is themed around Jesus, the builder.

“Jesus was a builder,” Mark said. “The word in Greek that is often translated to ‘carpenter’ is actually the word for ‘builder’. The reason it was translated to ‘carpenter’ in English is because that was the most common type of builder in England when it was translated.

“But Jesus was actually a builder, which means that he would have used stone or blocks of concrete. Which makes it just like Lego bricks.”

Over the last few weeks, Mark has encouraged kids to build a road, a fishing boat, fruit and more. He gives them challenges and chats with them about the Bible.

“Giving then a challenge to do with their own Lego was lots of fun” he said.  “I give them a five minute challenge, [like] to build a boat, and then the ‘take-home’ challenge was to rebuild the boat so it could float.

“Jesus hung out with fishermen, so it made that connection back to the Bible. They had to put some mini figures on it and put it on the water in the sink – so they had lots of fun with that.”

In their next session, Mark explained how Jesus walked on Roman roads, which were made of stone blocks. He said he loves seeing the creativity of the kids come out as they build scenes and chat about them in a fun and casual environment.

“That was a really amazing new form of road building, so we built a road. It actually happened to coincide with Palm Sunday, so I got them to build a road and then create a scene on it.

“So I did the Palm Sunday scene… others did car crashes,” he laughed.

Mark is currently running Builders’ Club twice a week, with each session running three times. Sessions lasts for about 30 minutes, and all over he is reaching about 30 kids. Mark said he is doing it this way while we are physical distancing because of availability issues, but when life goes back to normal it will likely be run one afternoon a week.

“I was going to do it live at South Perth [Uniting Church], but it went online first because of this [COVID-19] situation.

“Once school goes back it’ll change. My focus is always going to be with kids that I can build relationships with. I guess that’s the difficult thing with any of the stuff we do online.”

Lego building is a fairly recent hobby for Mark, who began collecting the blocks last year, purposefully to begin the Builders’ Club. Now, it’s become one of his favourite past-times and a creative outlet. He said he was in part inspired by Godly Play and the Lego Masters TV show, currently airing on Channel 9.

“This is an art medium; it’s a type of art,” he said. “It’s like painting except you paint in blocks.

“We talk about the art of it and colour usage – they’re the fun things. It’s increasing their technical skills.

“People in ‘Lego World’ can be ‘set builders’, so they build the set that comes in a box – which is great, that’s what I’ve always been. But what I started doing last year with my son was learning how to be my own ‘creation builder’, and that creativity is really exciting to see grow in kids.

“You can never have too much Lego.”

For more information, or to learn about how you could start up your own Builders’ Club in your context, email Mark at mark.illingworth@wa.uca.org.au.

Heather Dowling

Top image: Josie Broadbent, 9, enjoying Builders’ Club via Zoom.

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