By Sharon Stratmoen
Below is an article taken from our soon to be released book “The INCM Comprehensive Guide for Children’s Workers.” You can buy your own copy at it’s official release at CPC ’10!
You’re already doing amazing things to reach kids. Have you ever thought about super-sizing your children’s ministry? I’m not talking about just adding numbers. I’m talking about super-sizing it with sensational seasonal events for major impact! Read on to discover how to super-size your ministry to impact kids in God-size ways.
Deuteronomy 6: 4-8 says, “So commit yourselves wholeheartedly to these words of mine. Tie them to your hands and wear them on your forehead as reminders. Teach them to your children. Talk about them when you are at home and when you are on the road, when you are going to bed and when you are getting up.” The action words in this passage are commit, tie, teach, talk. What do these action words tell us that parents are to do with their children?
“These words of mine” are so important that we need to teach our children at all times, in all places, whether we’re sitting, walking, lying, down, or getting up-every moment of every day. For our ministry to be effective in helping kids grow in their faith, we have to partner with families. That is the single one way to super-size your ministry! So, you already have the secret ingredient to powerfully impact your ministryâ€¦families. Are you using it as a tool?
Children’s Ministry in the 21st Century states, “Family ministry is a challenge and opportunity for churches today. Trends and research detail the need for ministry in this areaâ€¦parents who value family time are making every effort to make it a priority.” Survey results in the 2009 State of Family Ministry, by Christine Yount Jones, states “parents across the country are saying the most helpful tool for them to take faith home is through family events.” So what are we waiting for?
Let me show you how easy it can be to set up sensational seasonal family ministry events that are successful. Our church has discovered that there are five key ingredients to a successful seasonal event.
5 Key Ingredients for a Sensational Seasonal Event
1. Be strategic. Begin by planning unique strategic events that have an emphasis on outreach. Families today are busier than ever. Less is more. Take advantage of the seasons and plan your events accordingly. Fall Harvest/Halloween, Christmas and Easter are three times of the year that families are looking for something special to do with their kids. We have discovered that these types of events are a secret strategy for attracting kids who are often unchurched. If you want proof, drive around your city in early October and count the many Halloween alternative, pumpkin patch, or fall festival signs you see. If you have growing churches in your community, they likely have church-sponsored Easter egg hunts, celebrations with Christ-centered crafts, booths, or games at local festivals or holidays. Part of your strategy is when to hold these events. We value our kids and parents and don’t want our parents to serve on the actual days of Christmas and Easter. So our advice to you is not to plan your seasonal events on the High Holy Days. Choose days before the actual holidays. Keep a pulse on what’s going on in your community so you’re not conflicting with another big event.
2. Invite the entire family! Current research begs us to extend the invitation to the entire family. Gone are the days of Fall Festivals, Egg Hunts, and the like just for kids. We intentionally plan seasonal events that allow kids and parents to be together, which helps build that relationship of parents as the primary faith developer and cuts down on how many volunteers you need. There are some great resources out there to use. Our church has had super success using Group Publishing’s A Night in Bethlehem Advent and All Around Easter for curriculum. Both include faith discovery stations for kids and their families. Look for more details on our events at the end of the article.
3. Make it fun. Effective children’s and family ministry outreaches strive to make the church-based events, like a Fall Festival with jump castles loaded with candy, more attractive than the established alternative, like trick-or-treating. When your families come to an event like this, you’re communicating that Jesus is an absolute blast! I live by Jim Rayburn’s principle, “it’s a sin to bore a kid with the Gospel.” And our custodian can tell you, my motto is, “the bigger the mess the more fun we had!”
4. Offer spiritual content. Since we’re the church, we get to talk about Jesus! Tie in a gospel message, Biblical craft or keepsake, a lesson on virtues or character traits at seasonal events. Families can then use the event to talk about powerful lessons from Scripture. During your Easter egg hunt, families can discuss why exactly they’re running around looking for eggs. Is there a connection to the meaning of Easter? Challenge the family to come up with one. Send something home that can continue the conversation after families have left your event. Consider including a high value craft that is worthy of keeping. The Bible verses on their keepsakes will remind them of what they have learned for years to come.
5. Make it relevant to kids. Churches that reach out to your community know they have no chance of reaching unchurched kids without relevance. Who had even heard of a church-sponsored sports camp 10 years ago? Many outreach-focused churches understand that kids like sports. Rather than trying to pull kids into unfamiliar events and uncharted territory, churches are using kids’ existing interests to help them grow in their faith. SportsLife Camp has become a summertime favorite for kids at our church. And an easy way to bring new kids into your ministry who don’t know about Jesus. They come for coaching and skills technique and leave with Jesus!
When you combine these five key ingredients, your once seasonal event will be super-sized into a fantastic faith-filled family event. Families in your church can have powerful and unforgettable family-centered faith experiences that promote effective family faith-growth. Ready to super-size your ministry to impact kids in God-size ways? Here are some practical tips and two ideas to get you started.
Practical Tips & Ministry Ideas for Successful Seasonal Events
â€¢ Before you begin planning your first event, decide when to have it and how long the event will last. We have found in our community that a 2-hour time frame works for seasonal events and Sundays between 4-6 PM are good for families. But, each community is different. So invest a little time in discovering the best option for most families and your volunteers.
â€¢ Gather an event team.
â€¢ Set a budget. Decide if you will have a fee. If so, how much?
â€¢ Delegate responsibilities (publicity, registration, set-up, take down, recruit volunteers, program/curriculum development, station leaders, food, etc). Break jobs down to manageable tasks and then no one person will be over burdened.
â€¢ Consider offering nursery for event volunteers.
â€¢ Reserve building space and check in with your custodian for any special help necessary during set-up.
â€¢ Have stick on name tags available for participants and volunteers during the event so you can build relationships by calling people by name.
â€¢ Send a thank-you email or handwritten note to your volunteers.
â€¢ Jot down notes on what went well and what you’d tweak the next time around.
Christmas Event Idea
We have used Bethlehem Village and A Night in Bethlehem for an incredible Christmas Hands-On Holy Land Experience. The event draws children and their families. They’re surrounded by images of Bethlehem, Jesus and the manger. The Christmas story really comes to life in a meaningful way as families step back in time and visit the Marketplace shops and meet Bible-time characters who were on the scene when Jesus was born. We even added one of our own shops, The Greenery, where families could make advent wreath with fresh green to take home, complete with a devotion book. And, this event attracts families from the community – a great outreach! People can’t wait to see, taste, touch and feel what is was like in Bethlehem when Jesus was born. Something unique with these events has been that most of our volunteers are not our typical children’s ministry people. Retired people have served as our shopkeepers, so another outcome of an event such as this is that it may broaden your volunteer base.
Easter Event Idea
We created an easy pizzazz-y Easter family event using All Around Easter. Create a path of faith discovery for kids and families with this life-changing Easter Walk. You’ll transport your families to Jesus’ last week on earth so they can walk in his footsteps. There are six easy-to do discovery stations to help families experience the first Palm Sunday, Good Friday, Easter morning and more! This event was better than any Easter egg hunt our church could sponsor. And we did it in 2-hours!
Sharon has made children and family ministry her passion and focus for over twenty years. She’s is the director in a church that serves 600 kids, engages over 100 volunteers weekly and partners in running a licensed weekday preschool. [email protected],www.oslcstillwater.org