A Year of Ideas for the Children in your Church
Here are a few ideas to consider when planning some activities for your children throughout the year. Don’t feel you have to do everything! Just pick a few that appeal to you and would work in your setting, and try some different ones each year. If you can only manage four events a year you could plan something social, something outside, a special children’s service and an outreach event. Remember that it is alright to hold outreach social events where the only spiritual content is a prayer for grace said by a child. It is most important that children feel safe enough to bring their friends along. Good evangelism practice understands that we need to make friends and help people feel comfortable first, and then give them the space to ask spiritual questions if they want to learn more about our faith.
Go to www.familyfun.go.com for a wonderful general website of seasonal ideas, crafts and things you can easily print and use with your children for all occasions.
Go to www.barnabasinchurches.org.uk and then click on the tab for ‘Ideas’ to find crafts, sketches, and ideas for all kinds of Bible based events and activities throughout the church year.
Go to www.raisingkids.co.uk which is an excellent general website for all kinds of ideas for families with children, including seasonal ideas, child development, help in understanding and managing children’s behaviour, etc.
The Christian Publicity Organisation at www.cpo-online.org.uk produce Holiday Bible School material, children’s outreach comics, anti-Halloween tracts, excellent posters and a kit for holding a Light Party (Christian outreach alternative to Halloween). You can subscribe to their catalogue which produces high quality seasonal outreach materials.
Try www.bakerross.co.uk for lots of cheap and seasonal craft packs for children’s groups, prizes, small gifts and ready to use activities for family fun days and church picnics.
Sabbath School Breakfast Party
Start the year with a Sabbath School Breakfast party before Sabbath School. Invite the whole family so they can come early to church together and not have to eat breakfast at home.
Sabbath School Room Decoration
Invite older children to help create new room decorations for the younger classes, their own classes, sponsor a room in the church to keep tidy and attractive, or create an attractive display for the church foyer.
Christian Home and Family Week/Valentines Day
Children can make cards to tell people of God’s love, to let people know what love really means on Valentine’s Day.
Let the children host a special banquet for the married couples in the church, or even just a reception with a special cake and a drink. Perhaps they could also do a short, humorous sketch about being married, and give the couples a few questions to discuss based on the sketch.
Pancake Day/Shrove Tuesday
Hold a pancake party to which the children can invite their friends. Provide the pancakes and invite the children and their families to make and bring different savoury and fruit fillings. Write the invitations on pancake shaped pieces of paper. Play some team games themed around pancakes – eg. musical ‘pancakes’ instead of musical chairs, using pancake-shaped pieces of paper to stand on, pancake tossing competition – See how many times a child can toss a felt or fun-foam pancake in one minute, etc.
Search the web, especially www.familyfun.go.com and find lots of ideas and crafts for children to give to their mothers. Hold a tea-party for mums and make it pretty and special. Children can help to make invitations, sandwiches, decorations, simple gifts, cold drinks, etc, and learn how to serve things carefully.
April/Easter (sometimes in March)
Make Easter cards that witness of Jesus’ resurrection.
Resurrection Morning Celebration
Hold a Resurrection Morning Celebration with a simple early morning praise time and a tasty brunch. You can do this outside if you can find a place to hold a barbecue or serve hot food. Plan some fun activities to celebrate such as the Good News Easter Egg Hunt below.
Good News Easter Egg Hunt
Have an Easter Egg hunt to find A4 printed and laminated Easter Egg shapes that you have hung out of the children’s reach, but where they are clearly visible. On each numbered Easter Egg write a ‘good news’ verse about Jesus’ love, and His salvation. Give each child a pencil, clipboard, and a pre-printed sheet on which they can write the verses down as they find them, next to their appropriate number. Give each child who completes the hunt a plastic egg in which you have hidden a small treat and a Bible verse telling them how Jesus has saved us. Find stickers and erasers in your local Christian Book Shop, or go to www.bakerross.co.uk and find bulk bags of bendy smiley people and other happy face toys. This can be an outreach activity if the children invite their friends and you could hide chocolate Easter eggs if you wished, and play traditional games such as egg and spoon races, etc.
Encourage children to take part in spring cleaning and bring their unwanted toys and clothes to a sale at church to raise funds for ADRA. Remember that the TED has a special ADRA project for AIDS orphans in an African village that is being supported by the children of our Division. For more information contact Heather Haworth at the BUC Children’s Ministries Department, or Karen Holford at the SEC.
This could be a good time of year to hold a sponsored activity for ADRA fundraising, or to raise money for a local church project that would benefit the children.
During half term you could hold a special children’s event such as a Sabbath School Outing.
Children can make cards and gifts for their dads. See www.familyfun.go.com for ideas and things you can easily print off for the children to make and do.
Plan a children and dad’s event such as a kite making project, sports activity or even a men’s prayer breakfast where the children serve the food. Be sensitive to children who may not have fathers who could come, and find a safe and comfortable way to include them, too, where possible, by including grandfathers and uncles, or even mums.
Holiday Bible Schools
This is a good time to run a holiday club. There are materials available to borrow from our office, but many of the packs are not very expensive to buy for your churches and British publications often have cheap invites, gifts and crafts you can buy easily, too.
Try www.bakerross.co.uk for quick, cheap, easy and crafts with good results.
Outings and picnics
Summer is a time for outings and picnics, especially for children whose families may be unable to take holidays during the summer.
Don’t forget to encourage your children to attend the excellent church camps run by the youth, junior and teen departments.
A back to school party
Hold a fun party to ‘celebrate’ going back to school, or starting school. Provide goody bags with school items, perhaps with Bible texts printed on them. Have a special prayer time of blessing for the children, their classes, and teachers.
Scripture Union produces an excellent resource called ‘It’s Your Move’ for children moving into secondary schools. Find out more at www.scriptureunion.org.uk/itsyourmove/
Involve children in the Harvest Festival by helping to collect food, parcel it up, and take it to needy people. Prepare an item for the Harvest Service. Find Harvest resources at www.barnabasinchurchesorg.uk website given on the first page, and search the net for ‘harvest resources for children’. Several charities produce excellent harvest resources each year to help children think about mission projects and needy people.
Family Togetherness Week
Perhaps you could help to plan a fun event for the families in your church, focussing on them doing something together. One idea is to give each family all kinds of junk and a stapler, scissors and sellotape and then asking them to create something, such as dressing a child in a fancy dress costume, creating a new kind of animal, or making the components of a wedding (one family dresses a groom, another a bride, and others make a church, cake, car and bouquet, etc!)
Children’s Sabbath is the last Sabbath in October. Materials are usually produced by the North American Division and placed on their website at www.childmin.com then click ‘Children’s Sabbath’, but often not until September. If you do nothing else all year, try to make this Sabbath special for the children. If it’s too much to have the children take the service, make sure you have a special service catering for the children’s needs throughout. If you need resources we have plenty at the SEC and BUC Children’s Ministry Departments. Just ask!
Halloween on October 31st is growing in popularity. Why not hold an Anti-Halloween party? CPO (website address on first page) produces a kit of materials to help you run an alternative ‘Light Party’. Other ideas for Christian alternatives to Halloween parties can be found by searching the web.
Packing Shoeboxes for ADRA
Organise a special day when children can pack Shoeboxes for the ADRA appeal. Provide the shoeboxes and wrapping paper, sellotape and labels, etc and invite the children to bring their goodies to wrap and pack. Give families a list of useful things to pack in the shoebox.
End of year party
Hold an end of year party on a day when parents can take a break and go shopping without the children. Perhaps you could show a film of the Nativity Story, have a party and even make cards and gifts for the children to give their parents, or goody bags to give to the older people in the church.
People always love to see children singing carols and you could hand out tracts about Jesus or Life.info magazines to passers by. Or sing in homes for the elderly. Rather than collecting money, give away small gifts such as wrapped sweets, satsumas, or small candles.
A nativity/Advent Concert can be a good outreach opportunity and can be useful for children with non-Adventist parents, as the parents are likely to come to an event where their child is performing. Sell hot-spiced apple juice and other seasonal refreshments to raise funds for ADRA projects, etc.
Prepare a simple item that children can do to welcome new babies in the church, such as a lullaby song, or a gift from the Children’s Department, such as a Toddler Bible.
Don’t forget the traditional Thirteenth Sabbath Programmes. You will find resources in the children’s and teen’s mission appeal book. Even something simple that the children enjoy doing, such as a lively song, is a special treat for the adults. If you recite memory verses, find a creative way to tell them, or make a lovely PowerPoint background to accompany each verse as the child recites it. Perhaps you could show elements of your Sabbath School class to the whole church and let the adults see a whole programme, and what happens behind the scenes! Some churches give each children’s class one Thirteenth Sabbath a year. This helps to reduce stressful planning.
Involving Children’s Creative Gifts in Church
Churches where children are involved in the church service are the ones that are growing the fastest! How can you work with your worship co-ordinators, pastor and elder to involve the children in church in different ways? Here are some ideas to start you thinking.
· Invite children to design your church’s bulletin cover.
· Children could also draw pictures that can be scanned into the computer and displayed in a PowerPoint presentation to illustrate a hymn, the sermon, the children’s story, or a scripture reading.
· The children’s department could help the children design banners for the church, or seasonal decorations to decorate the church notice-board, or a plain wall in the church.
· Give out unlined index cards and crayons and ask children to draw their prayer requests, praises, thank you prayers, etc. Invite them to bring the cards forward during the prayer time, and use them to create a display in a special part of your church.
· Encourage children to work alongside a musical and trusted person (who has had full Criminal Record Bureau clearance to work with children) to create a special piece of music for church. This enables the child to be mentored into the use of their music in worship.
· Invite children to play the music whilst the offering is being collected.
· Have a range of simple musical instruments that small children can use during one or more of the praise songs each week.
· Invite children to take different scriptures that you will be using in your services, and to rewrite them in their own words. Perhaps they could work with an adult who will help them explore their ideas and guide their work.
· Invite children to write their own psalms of praise which can be used in a church service.
· Let children write their own letters to God, or poems, to be read out during a special service, or to create a small booklet which can be sold to raise money for a mission project.
Karen Holford 2007