Soccer tournaments, swimming lessons, camping trips, backyard barbeques—family calendars fill up fast in the summer! The flipside is that church calendars may look pretty empty due to a lack of volunteers. Taking a break from regular programming and routines can be good, but it’s important that we continue to connect with kids. Whether you hold a relaxed version of your regular Sunday school program or discontinue classes until fall, read on for nine refreshing ideas to help you nurture kids in the summer months too!
- Get a guide. Help kids dive into summer worship services by providing them with their own age-appropriate worship guides each week. For example—ask the worship planning team to provide you with the message title, Scripture passage, song selections, and any other special information for the coming week’s service. Use that information to make a children’s guide that might include questions or activities like this: “The opening song lyrics said God is ‘everlasting.’ Why?” or “The pastor is talking about how God cared for King David. Draw a picture or make a list of the ways God cares for you.” Other things to include: a faith talk question to ask at home, a joke of the day, or a topical word search.
- Do the backstroke. Were there some great lesson activities you didn’t have time to do this year? Flip through your leader guides and do the activities this summer that they didn’t get to during the school year!
- Lend a hand. With so many people away in the summer, there are often volunteer shortages in other areas of ministry. Use the absence of others as an opportunity to get your kids involved—they can serve as ushers, wash and dry the dishes after Sunday coffee, be greeters and church door openers, hand out bulletins, help prepare communion, present morning announcements during worship (think of how much more interesting they’d sound with a kid reading them!), help collect the offering, or play an instrument.
- Go Fishing. Summer is a great time for field trips designed to bring Bible stories to life. Experience God’s amazing creation as you walk in the woods or visit a city garden or butterfly sanctuary together. Walk past a construction site and talk about the wise and foolish builders. Know any farmers? Find out if you can visit their field and consider how a sower plants seeds! Ask a church member with a fondness for fishing to join your group on a fishing field trip or to bring in his gear in for a little Show and Tell. Kick off the experience with a reading from Luke 5:1-11.
- Get active. One of the biggest complaints from Sunday school teachers is lack of attendance due to travel sports—that tells you that there might be some highly skilled athletes in your church! Invite athletes in to share their skills and their faith story. Encourage them to talk about how being a Christ follower impacts their life and the choices they make on and off the court.
- Take a trip. Set aside a time to explore the culture of the country where your church sponsors mission work. Email your sponsored missionary and ask for photos you can download and share with your group. You could even see if your missionary has a webcam and would be up for a live and interactive interview! Bring in a world map and have kids find the location. Print off the country’s flag, search for a simple recipe you can eat (and prepare!) together or a popular game you can play. Pass out paper and invite kids to write letters or draw pictures you can send to the missionary or to the kids being ministered to in that country!
- Pitch and praise. Not all kids can afford to go to summer camp—but it’s easy and inexpensive for you to bring camp to them! Pitch a tent under the shade of a tree and teach a lesson outdoors. Don’t forget the lemonade!
- Cool off with a Celebration Sundae event that all ages can enjoy after church. Kids can help set up bowls of candy sprinkles, chocolate chips, sliced bananas, and other ice cream decorations. Pass out spoons and paper cups filled with ice cream to decorate and enjoy! Tip: For a simpler activity, cut open a few boxes worth of popsicles and have kids stand at the door and hand them out after church for a refreshing after church snack!
- Don’t forget to write! Those of you who won’t be seeing your kids all summer can still stay connected with their lives. Pass out postcards (stamped and addressed to you) on the last day of your program so they can drop you a line, or give each child a summertime journal and pen (check the dollar store) and encourage them to keep a vacation diary to share with you in the fall. Tip: Flip through the journals before passing them out and write a note or question on few pages. Something like: “Name 10 outdoor things you can thank God for today” or “Draw a picture of something God made.”
What summer tips do you have?