by Keith McManus
Summer is a great time of the year for your Children’s Ministry to experience growth while at the same time impacting your kid’s lives through creative, fun and entertaining programs. Turn those ordinary dog days of summer into extra ordinary sizzling super days of fun! It is as simple as changing up what you ordinarily do and tweaking your Sunday morning and mid-week programs.
Changing your “regular” programs and schedules up during the summer months can allow your “regular” volunteers some much needed time off, allow for others in your church to be involved for shorter periods of time and introduce your students to something fresh and different to keep their interests up and involvement high. This is not as difficult as you may think.
One suggestion is to consider allowing your Sunday morning small group or Sunday school teachers to take a few weeks off during the summer and expand your large group time to include more praise and worship, interactive games and creative programming. This not only changes up the number of volunteers needed during the summer, but it also changes up the routine schedule and pumps new excitement into your summer months.
For example, at Sonshine Avenue we have adapted five summer long programs that we rotate through allowing our first through fifth graders to experience each program once during their time in our children’s department. We have themed each program a little differently and use a variety of incentives and rewards for each. Some of the programs are designed for team competition, where we divide our children up trying to keep about the same amount of each grade of students on each team. Some of the programs are designed for competition between the boys and girls. Other programs combine team competition with individual challenges and rewards. We rotate the themes so that the style of programs and competitions are different each summer. All of the programs are packed full of fun, learning opportunities and challenges that make summer sizzle.
Here is a look behind the five themed summer programs that we have used at Sonshine Avenue on Sunday mornings:
Super Book Olympics is a program that was available from One Way Street. It is themed around the Olympics and challenges the students to study and memorize the scriptures using worksheets that go home each week. The Olympic style games and activities are then used to review what the children have learned over the past week. It is a team competition where the teams have the opportunity to win gold, silver or bronze medals. There is always a Grand Opening Ceremony and a highly publicized Closing Event. This is a fast paced, yet fairly simple program that all the children love.
PA.R.T.Y. Time is themed around a huge party with gifts, balloons and colorful decorations. It is an older curriculum that was published by Charisma Life. P.A.R.T.Y. stands for “Personal Attitudes Related To You” and teaches on gifts given, gifts we can give and gifts we can receive. We divided our party teams into boys and girls with competition being “party games” and reviewing the teaching lessons. We also did a weekly drawing of all the children in attendance that week for an advertized gift give-away and we had a huge party at the end of the summer program for the winning team as another incentive for this program.
Bible Boot Camp was themed around the military with camo, tents and artillery. We divided our children into “troops” and they competed by bringing visitors, their Bible, scripture memorization and offering. Points were also awarded for winning the games that we played that reviewed each week’s lesson. Along with the prize for the winning troop, the boys and girls were able to earn “medals” for attendance, scripture memory and guests that they brought. Charisma Life offered the first Bible Boot Camp Curriculum that we used and in recent years we have adapted the Truth Quest Bible Boot Camp Material.
Eternity 500 is themed around NASCAR and “The Race” to get to heaven. The curriculum is offered from the Train Depot and works great with dividing your students into race teams. Much like previously mentioned programs, points or “miles” can be added up for a variety of things. The winning “Race Team” can celebrate in the winner’s circle with a special party or trip.
Another themed program centers on the C.I.R.C.U.S. R.I.N.G. Again, we used Charisma Life’s curriculum from several years ago with each letter standing for a different lesson. As with all of our summer programs, we awarded points or “circus stars” for a variety of things that the children could do from bringing their Bibles, guests, scripture memorization, offering and circus games won. We had the boys versus girls throughout the program with each of them working toward “Circus Tickets” that could be cashed in at the end of the summer during the Circus Festival. The Circus Festival is similar to a fall festival with the advantage of being close to the beginning of new school year and able to attract new students and their families. Each week we would give away special “treats” such as hot dogs, popcorn, cotton candy and elephant food (peanuts) that one might experience at the circus.
There are many other ideas that can be captured and themed to make for a creative and fun learning experience on Sunday mornings for boys and girls during the summer. Following this kind of example also allows the investment in curriculums, sets and decorations and the development of the themed programs to be kept and used over and over again, repeating them only once every five years and reaching a new group of children each year the program is used. This keeps your summers fresh and exciting for you as well as your students, gives your regular teachers and volunteers a little break and allows you to be a good steward of your ministry finances and have more funds to invest in other resources throughout the year.
In addition to changing up your Sunday Mornings, you may want to consider suspending your regular mid-week discipleship program to allow the running of shorter programs that provide a refreshing approach for the studying of God’s Word. Again, this allows for the introduction of new volunteers that may be willing to assist for shorter periods of time all the while allowing your “regulars” to enjoy a little time off. There are some wonderful programs such as KidMo, TeamKid, High Voltage Kids, Truth Quest, High Point, Super Heroes, etc. These work great for just that kind of change up. From providing TV Dinners and studying the word of God through the eyes of TV characters and series, to wild and wacky Wednesday nights were no one ever knows what to expect, to intensive ministry training for your children or offering electives for your students to choose from, the summer months give you the opportunity to try different curriculum, new programs, schedules and promotional ideas without being “locked in” for an extended period of time.
Instead of doing the regular Vacation Bible School for one week during the summer months, take the VBS materials and stretch the program over your Sunday Morning or mid-week night for five weeks or longer. There are some imaginative programs out there that would be easily adaptable for a “summer program” and allows for some fun decorating and theming ideas. Using learning centers or a rotation system that your boys and girls could go through each night, one could reduce the amount of volunteers needed to a minimum number since each one would only be responsible for just one “element” of the lesson each night.
The key to success is advanced planning and recruitment. Advanced planning allows for more creative time to decorate, recruit, structure and “plus” the entire program. It is extremely vital that the folks in your community know what you have to offer their children well in advance. Therefore, the sooner you have your summer planned, the sooner you can begin to advertise and promote your program. Everybody loves something new and making your summer sizzle with a fresh approach to your worship service and discipleship program can have lasting impact for the Kingdom of God as well as for your local church. With some prayer, imagination, a creative team and a fresh approach to your summers, you can avoid the summer drop-off and experience an awesome program that will help you maintain your momentum and lead your students into a fun, challenging and life changing event.
Keith McManus, the director of Sonshine Avenue Ministry, Inc., has invested over twenty-five years of his life in ministry. His full article, as well as tons of ideas for event planning from other children’s leaders, can be found in Events That Worked for Us.