Help for Your Children’s Ministry:
Raise your hand if your church would love to have more children and youth in their church…raise them higher. OK, it’s looks like 100% of churches wish they had more young families…more children…more youth…coming to their church.
So then, what are you DOING to make that happen? Wishing kids to come in isn’t enough to make it happen. It’s like waiting for vegetables to grow without planting any seeds.
Your church doesn’t have many or any kids, therefore there’s no VBS planned for 2017. If you don’t plan a VBS or Sunday school or children’s activity, how can you expect to get any kids to come through your doors? Chickens or eggs – what came first?
The Church, as in one big happy Methodist family, needs to focus on kids. Really focus on bringing kids into their Sunday schools, VBS, outreach programs, bridge building events…or whatever you can plan. Why? According to a study by the Barna Research Group in California, 83% of Christians accepted Jesus between the ages of 4 – 14. Four to fourteen. 83%.
What is 83% of your current attendance of those between ages 4 – 14? Are you spending the majority of your resources (time, talent, focus) on this age bracket, since this is the age when people are most accepting of Jesus? Because isn’t that the point, bringing people to Jesus?
Don’t be discouraged, because I can help. I have planned many events for children of all age levels with little resources. Small budgets, small volunteer list, short time frame…it can still be done because I have done it and want to help you do it.
To plan an effective outreach or bridge building event for kids in your community, it will take some planning, some volunteers and maybe some financial resources. Here are two examples this month:
1 – Parades! Everybody loves a parade. You have an entire town or neighborhood as your captive audience. Parade entries are normally free; therefore, the only cost is what you will be handing out or tossing to the crowd.
Think outside the box besides just throwing tootsie rolls. What is your VBS theme? Is there a candy to match it? Use return address labels and print out an invitation with the details of your VBS.
Are you looking to make them fishers of men? Throw fish shaped beads. Use Swedish fish. Be clever and you will capture interest more. Other good ideas for summer are to hand out FROZEN ice pops or cold mini bottles of water. Always ask for donations from the congregation when you can.
2 – Fall Festival. This event will require a couple months to plan for advertising, donations, and setup. A fall festival can include:
- Pumpkin decorating
- A food craft
- A regular craft
- A contest
- A meal
Right away you saw meal and thought $$$…but there is a way around that too. Plan your menu ahead of time so it is easy and on the low end of the budget. Some low-cost options include spaghetti, pancakes, taco/nacho bar, hot dogs or macaroni and cheese. Once you settle on the menu, break down all of the ingredients you need and set out a signup sheet for people to donate those items. You may not get every item, but even if half of the food is donated that saves the church a chunk of change.
Another way to save on money is to pick games or crafts where you can use recycled materials. For instance, there are hundreds of fall themed projects on Pinterest that use toilet paper tubes, egg cartons, old CDs or even oatmeal containers. Pick your project early and put an announcement in the bulletin and newsletter seeking donations of these recycled items.
Adapt the activities to what you have available to you. Is there a farmer that can donate or give you a great deal on mini pumpkins that the kids can decorate? Do you have a member who owns a bakery and can donate cookies, donuts or another treat? Utilize the unique gifts that come from your own members to make your event noteworthy and affordable. Later in the newsletter, I describe in detail the steps we took in planning.
At the Fall Festival we held in Auburn last year, the set up worked like this:
- The event was Sunday right after service, 12 – 3. The event was free to the community.
- A taco/nacho bar was in the fellowship hall and open until the food was gone. We didn’t know how many to plan for, so there was food for 125 and we ended up with 160 people total (not everyone came to eat).
- Recruit volunteers. To ease the restrictions of safe sanctuary trained individuals being with the kids, make it a family event. The parents go around with their children so they are not alone with the adults. You can still have safe sanctuary trained individuals, but if there is an older youth or an adult who has not been through your church’s training but wants to volunteer, it is still OK. And you won’t need as many adult volunteers when the parents are still around to help their own child with a craft or a game. Still plan on one for each station you provide, two if you have the manpower.
- Have a welcome table. For guests who had never been to the church, be available to answer questions on where to start, what to do, where the bathrooms are, answers questions on the church, have information pamphlets available, etc. ALWAYS welcome the guests.
- There were activities indoors and out since the weather cooperated. Inside was a candy bar walk, a cookie decorating “craft” two craft projects. Outdoors was a donut eating competition, a scarecrow decorating competition between ministry teams, a bean bag toss game, a spin the wheel game, pumpkin decorating, a sunflower seed craft, free popcorn for snacks, and two other games. If the weather had not cooperated, everything could have been moved inside, but since we were able, we spread out.
- PROMOTE your church! At the welcome table, there were bags handed out with church info and upcoming activities for children and families. The kids could put their other treasures in these bags as they went around to the various stations. We used large lunch bags, but recycled store bags work too.
- Use social media to promote your event! Create a Facebook event and post it to your church’s page, have a contest for your members to share the event and post it to the web page. Those methods are all free! When you have a free event for families and you can leverage free marketing and advertising, you are only going to get great results.
- I purchased prizes with a religious fall theme from Oriental Trading company. If you have the time, they allow churches to set up tax free accounts where they will bill you and there is no payment needed up front. Prizes included temporary face tattoos, candy, pencils, trinket toys, pumpkin decos, etc. They were small prizes but the kids got to choose from a basket at each game.
- Have a free will donation basket at the food table IF YOU CHOOSE. Have a basket available, because I usually have people ask where they can donate if I forget to put one out. Don’t expect any money, but whatever you get will go against your expenses.
- Have a cleanup crew ready. Not everyone likes to work with children and that’s OK. See if they would like to take care of the trash once the kids are gone, sweep the floor or do the dishes. Every bit of help helps!
- Once you set up your volunteers, have two people available to float. They can walk around and greet, monitor the food dishes to make sure they are full, watch the trash cans, fill in for a leader if a person at a station needs a restroom break, someone has to cancel with a sick child, etc.
There is plenty of time to start planning now and have one on the calendar for this fall. If you have any questions, need advice or want to try something on your own similar to this, call or email me. In order to get those kids through your doors you have to start somewhere, how about now?