This post was written by Melissa Hendrickson, a member of the INCM Blog team.
Sunday mornings, Wednesday nights, or whichever days your church meets are challenging times to get to know the adults of the families you serve.
As you check children into their classes and help new guests find their way, there isn’t time for much more than a quick “hello.”
But to live in community together means getting to know each other more deeply, which means making time for informal gatherings that provide opportunities for connecting with adult caregivers and creating memories.
A great way to provide these connections is by hosting family events for your community.
We want to create time and space to hear the stories of the families in our communities. We also desire to connect families so that their friendships deepen and go beyond Sunday morning.
Here are some ideas to get you started!
1. A Minute To Win It Event
This event is a family favorite in our community. It is sure to provide riotous laughter and give caregivers a space to be silly with their kids while also connecting with other adults.
Here’s how to set up the event.
- Plan 1.5 hours for this event.
- As families arrive, everyone receives a ticket for prize drawings throughout the event.
- Kick things off with pizza and drinks and give everyone about 30 minutes to eat and engage in conversation.
After dinner, transition into the Minute To Win It games.
We select 20 to 25 games (you can easily find hundreds of options on Pinterest) and then see how many we can get through in an hour.
Do the games competition style, so for most games, select two contestants to race and see who can finish the challenge fastest before the timer runs out.
For games like Face the Cookie, in which a whole group can play together, make sure to have plenty of cookies so that everyone can participate.
Depending on the size of your group, you can adapt this event in a variety of ways to meet your needs.
This event will be talked about long after it is over.
2. Roller Skating
All ages seem to enjoy a day at the skating rink.
Often roller rinks will rent out blocks of time where your group can have the facility to themselves.
The rink will typically work with you to find a playlist that suits your needs, and depending on your rink, you might be able to bring in your own food.
Adults and children alike will look forward to lacing up their skates and skating the day away with friends.
This is a great time for the adults to connect as they reminisce over their own skating memories while also making new memories with their children.
The skating rink provides a pretty relaxed environment that is conducive to chatting with various family members and getting to know more about them.
3. Scavenger Hunts & Ice Cream Sundaes
Do you have memories of running through your neighborhood with a list of random trinkets to collect from your neighbors, or maybe driving around town snapping pictures for a scavenger hunt?
We found a way to embrace the fun of a scavenger hunt while remaining in our church building.
Scavenger hunts can be done in many ways, but my favorite option has been using crates from KiwiCo.
These creations have several small pieces. If you separate the pieces into 6 color-coded zip-top bags, numbering them 1-6, groups can find all the bags of pieces around the church, then build the contraption together.
On the day of our event, before everyone arrived, the zip-top bags were hidden in various rooms around the building.
Once everyone arrived for the event, we grouped several adults from different families with children of different ages to form the teams.
We assigned each team a color and explained they were searching for six zip-top bags full of supplies. We also filled them in on which spaces were off-limits for searching.
They raced through the building to find their bags, returned to the sanctuary, and built the contraption following the provided directions.
After the teams finished building we did several door prize drawings, and then everyone was invited to make ice cream sundaes.
The night wrapped up with lots of laughter and comfortable conversations as everyone sat around tables enjoying ice cream and talking about their week.
4. Let’s Eat!
Once a quarter, our church provides lunch on Sunday following the service. Maybe your church community does something like this already, too.
The whole church is invited to eat, play games, and hang out.
A team grills up hot dogs and hamburgers, and chips and drinks are provided, too.
We keep it pretty simple so that the set-up and clean-up are a breeze.
Carnival games get pulled out, which we built years ago, for kids and adults to play together, including ring toss, Plinko, mini-golf, and more.
These lunches allow everyone in the church to get to know each other better. People find spaces to sit and chat, and the conversation flows freely.
It is a joyous time and also helps develop intergenerational relationships in the community.
Keep in Mind
When planning these events, it is a good idea to keep a few factors in mind.
Is the church paying for the event, or will families pay a fee?
It is important to keep your specific community in mind when considering what is feasible for families to afford.
We want to offer events that encourage everyone to join in and never want finances to be a deterrent.
If families are footing the bill, it is especially important to alternate more expensive and less expensive events.
A scholarship fund for events can be helpful as well.
Hosting these events once a quarter can be a great idea.
Families often have full schedules, and we want these events to be something they look forward to and feel excited to add to their calendars.
Be sure to consider other events already on your church’s calendar and try to avoid back-to-back church events when scheduling. You might already have events on the calendar you can adapt to include parents and caregivers.
Food & Other Allergies
When you offer food or are doing events with balloons at an event it is helpful to be familiar with allergies.
Do you need gluten/dairy/nut-free snacks or meal options? Does anyone have a latex allergy and cannot be in contact with balloons?
You can learn this information when people sign up for events by asking them if they have any food or other allergies.
If you aren’t sure how to accommodate a certain need, reach out to the family with the allergy and see what options they suggest.
And if you need to learn how to be more inclusive of kids with allergies, we encouage you to do some learning.
Ultimately, the size of your church, the budget you are working with, and the families in your care will impact what kind of events you can host.
Get creative as you brainstorm what events to add to your calendar.
At the end of the day, we want these events to create an environment where we can get to know our families better, while also making room for the families to get to know each other better, too!
Melissa Hendrickson has served children and their families for the past 26 years. She recently founded holyformed.org and is writing and teaching on Spiritual Formation. Melissa has been married for 21 years and has two sons. The oldest is in college, and the youngest is a high school sophmore. Melissa loves to read a good book, enjoys a nice cup of Rooibos tea, and always looks forward to traveling with her family.