It can be hard to plan church activities for children during the summer, especially in small churches, because of sports, family vacations, and so forth. Our church will have Vacation Bible School, as will many other churches. But, in addition to whatever Sunday and Wednesday activities the church might provide, what do you plan for the rest of the year to keep kids engaged? Here are some ideas from our church:
- Summer day camp—When possible, our church sponsors what we call Kidz Dayz. One week of the summer our pastor and youth pastor host a day camp open to our community. This is similar to a backyard Bible club in that there is a Bible lesson, outside games (weather permitting), crafts, and food. Several years ago, our leaders discovered Route 52 by Standard Publishing. These studies are cost-effective because you can purchase only the lessons you want in the age groups you want, and there is a customizable option.
- Back-to-School Bash—This is a family activity scheduled after school resumes in the late summer/early fall. You can also use it as an outreach event because it can be held at a park or, as in our case, at the local public swimming pool after hours. Of course there is always food geared toward the children, normally pizza and cookies.
- Fall festival—Our church has a fall festival each year—a church-wide event open to the community—sometimes with carnival type games, or if weather permits, Trunk-or-Treat. Activities also include a chili cook-off for the adults, which everyone enjoys, and we have walking tacos and hot cider. A hayride is also a fun activity.
- Parents’ Night Out—This activity can be held anytime, but planning one for the Christmas season will allow parents time away from the kids to shop if they choose to. Serve some pizza or hot dogs, and have crafts, story time or whatever else you want!
- Children’s Christmas party—Have a Christmas party with finger foods and story time. Children love to interact with their pastor, so it is great when he can read or tell them a Christmas story about Jesus. We end the night with Santa arriving on a fire engine (of course there is an opportunity for pictures). We give the fire department a donation for helping out, and we send food back to the fire hall for the other firefighters.
- Children’s Movie Night—This is a “just because” anytime activity. If the weather is nice, tack a sheet to the side of the building and project the movie on the “big screen.” Otherwise you can show it on a screen inside or a large television. Obviously, you will need popcorn!
- Easter Bash—Easter is a great time in church life, and the children love to celebrate. Have an Easter egg hunt on the church grounds and have prize eggs. We also have story time where the pastor reads an Easter story to the children. Normally we have a visit from the Easter Bunny with an opportunity for photos; however, small children don’t always appreciate the life-sized rabbit.
- Game night—Ask the children to bring their favorite board or card game and make a night of it. It is fun for the kids and gives their parents an opportunity for date night.So here is a sample schedule:
January/ February – Movie night/Parents’ Night Out (Frozen, Ice Age, Polar Express, etc.)
March/April – Easter Bash
June/July – VBS and Summer day camp
August/September-Back to School Bash
November/December-Parent’s night out (game night)/Children’s Christmas party
If you need an extra activity, throw in an extra movie or game night. Right now, you may be saying, “This all sounds good, but who is going to organize it?” We have a children’s team of about four couples (parents) to plan and execute these things. If they need financial help or volunteers, our older Sunday school classes may help with funds, and our young adult Sunday school class may provide volunteers. Sometimes our young adult class even organizes the event.
You don’t have to be elaborate or spend a tremendous amount of money to have an active children’s ministry. You just need willing people, and you need to make the activities fun. The kids will attend, and they will have good memories of their church.
Maleah Bell is a freelance editor and pastor’s wife. She and her husband make their home in Middle Tennessee.