by Karen Apple
Fall Festival is one of my favorite children’s ministry events. Because parents are looking for Halloween alternatives, it’s one of the best times to invite neighborhood kids to enjoy the fun.
Scarecrows and hay bales illuminated with carved pumpkins shout “Fall Festival!” That’s the easy part. The challenge is making meaningful memories that transcend the obvious.
Inflated slides, bowling pins with a ball big enough to sit in interest some kids, while others are drawn to face paint, games and prizes. My favorites are the “Creation Stations” and the “Room of Wondrous Secrets”.
“Picasso on the Fly”, “Bead Bonanza” and “Finger Frenzy” add colorful twists to any fall event. The leaders at each station can briefly talk to kids about what makes the leaves change colors and the wonders of God’s great big beautiful creation.
Spin art machines for “Picasso on the Fly” are frequently available from companies that rent inflatable slides.
Pile sparkling beads and threading wire or leather lacings on tables for girls to make their new favorite bracelets. Include green, red, gold, black and white beads to make “salvation bracelets” on leather laces and the boys will join this creation station.
Preschoolers are all about messy, sensory art. Give them what they crave with pudding finger paint. Simply add food coloring to vanilla pudding and away their fingers will swirl on a piece of slick butcher paper. Add a few large, puffy marshmallows and they can dab them in the colored pudding, print the color on paper and pop the marshmallows in their mouths. Now that’s “fun city”!
“The Room of Wondrous Secrets” is a station in which children discover truths from God’s Word. Hay bales, corn stalks, and pumpkins provide the backdrop for the scarecrow storyteller. The scarecrow begins by describing a real deserted farmhouse in my childhood neighborhood.
The visual focus is a large pumpkin sitting on a hay bale. The secret to this pumpkin is the heart carved into the spot where the face should be. With the room dimly lit, the scarecrow removes the cut out heart revealing a dark, heart shaped hole in the pumpkin. Inside, the kids can barely see a white, unlit candle. The scarecrow introduces a leader who will use the pumpkin as a tool to expand on the following salvation message.
- The inside heart is dark because it can’t be beautifully bright by itself. We all make wrong choices. “For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.” Romans 3:23 “There is no one who is righteous, no not even one.” Romans 3:10
- The leader then reveals a tall red candle he lit earlier and hid out of site. He talks about Jesus, the “light of world”. Jesus said, “I have come into the world as a light, so that no one who believes in me should stay in darkness.” John 12:46 “… he that follows me shall not walk in darkness, but shall have the light of life.” John 8:12.
- For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. John 3:16
- “But as many as received him, to them gave he power to become the children of God, even to them that believe on his name.” Romans 12:1 “Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved….” Acts 16:31 “But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus, his Son, purifies us from all sin.” 1 John 1:7
- The leader then takes the red candle, which represents Jesus, the “light of the world”, and lights the candle inside the pumpkin. Now the candle is alight with the symbolic light and life of Jesus. NEW LIFE begins and a home in heaven is assured…
- If an invitation is given, leaders stand ready to talk to kids about their decision.
Fall festival is far more than fun for the moment. It’s a moment that can count for eternity.
Karen is a kids’ ministry mentor, speaker and writer. She and Steve, “the Apple of her eye”, live in Charlotte, NC.