The lazy days of summer!
Why is it that those words don’t really seem to apply to the work of children’s and family ministries? If anything, summer days seem to get crazier as we try to create meaningful events for out-of-school kids and their families.
What if we go back in time to find some easy-to-plan, easy-to-prepare fun times for our church families? Come along and get some ideas from my own childhood – a long time ago
1. Family Picnic – I know, I know! What’s the big deal about a picnic? Back in the late sixties (1960’s that is), our family always went to the annual family reunion at a great park about 30 minutes from our house. I remember those reunions as a highly anticipated time.
What were the ingredients of these family picnics? A great location – someplace we didn’t visit regularly which means plenty of exploring, people we didn’t get together with regularly, picnic food (yum!), and games we rarely played.
So, what does it take to put it together?
- Finding a place – somewhere away from the church grounds. Don’t be afraid to make it a little bit of a drive. Adventuring into the unknown is great for kids.
- Organizing the food – make it potluck with everybody bringing a side, their own plates and cups and silverware, and meat to put on the grill.
- Games – think as simple as you can with as few supplies as possible – watermelon seed spitting, sack race, 3-legged race, scavenger hunt. And be sure to take advantage of whatever your park offers – hiking, swimming, softball, etc.
- Devotional – no, we didn’t have these at a family reunion, but surely after spending the day in God’s great creation, leading your families to revel in God’s creativity will be the perfect way to end the day together.
2. 4th of July Do-It-Yourself Parade – This one goes back to 1976 – the year of our country’s bicentennial and it works for the whole family.
In 1976, I was fifteen and my brothers and sister were fourteen, ten, and nine and we all happily participated in our little town’s 4th of July parade. Everybody in town decorated something for the parade – a kid’s wagon, a bicycle, a stroller, anything with wheels! We paraded down Main Street, hoping to win a prize for our entry.
If you don’t live in a small town, it might be hard to pull off closing down Main Street, but you can definitely do this one in your church parking lot.
What does it take to put it together?
- Giving people a heads-up at least two weeks in advance and giving them few and simple rules for an entry in the parade.
- Inviting the neighbors to the fun. Everybody loves the Fourth, so use this as an opportunity to reach out. Invite others to participate or just to watch.
- Get and advertise your awesome prizes in advance. These doesn’t have to be expensive – use your imagination and invite donations from your members.
- Recruit a lively emcee to keep the parade moving, and recruit a judge or two to determine the winners and hand out prizes.
- A formal devotional might be harder for this one, but be sure to pipe in Christian music during the parade and consider handing out a patriotic tract.
- Finally, invite everybody to carpool together to your favorite fireworks display and end the night with a bang!
3. Churn Off and/or Bake Off – I have lots of memories of friendly competition among the women of our little town when it came to baked goods and I also remember the pleasure of waiting not very patiently for homemade ice cream to churn.
Why not turn these two into an excuse to get your families together?
What does it take to put it together? Almost nothing, but…
- Determine your parameters – homemade ice cream? Homemade pie? Other goodies? Are you going to have a store-bought category – we included one at our church and it provided a humorous way for even the busiest family to get involved.
- Get a team of impartial judges – include some kids on that team too.
- Collect some sweet prizes.
- End up the evening singing a couple of your favorite songs and include a devotional – maybe on the goodness of God who is, of course, sweeter than ice cream and apple pie!
4. Back-to-School Backpack Packing – I’ve got to say that we never did this one when I was a kid. So, what’s old school about it? Teaching our children the old-fashioned virtue of helping our neighbors.
This event takes the most planning of the four, so gather a team to help pull it off.
What does it take to put it together?
- First, cooperation with your community. Look for groups who can help you connect with kids in need and ask them for a list of supplies to include in the backpacks.
- Start advertising this event early in the summer so that your families have a chance to collect the supplies and to turn them in before the night of the event.
- Plan an easy dinner – something with minimal set-up and clean-up so that you can focus on the packing. (Our go-to easy dinner always seems to be pizza.)
- Get the supplies set up in an assembly line. When our church did this, each person got a list of backpack fillers and checked off the list as they went down the line. This way we could have one assembly line that would work for elementary backpacks as well as middle school and high school.
- On the night of the event after dinner, explain who is going to be the beneficiary of the backpacks, describe the process as clearly as possible and jump into packing.
- When the packing party is over, get everybody together to pray for the kids who are going to receive the backpacks and to encourage your families to look for ways to help out their neighbors this school year.
There you have it – four ideas for stress-free summer events that will strengthen relationships between your families and that will encourage them to reach out to the community.
What ideas do you have to share with us?