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Fall Event: Fall Festival

Having a Fall Festival is a wonderful opportunity for fellowship and fun. Done thoughtfully, it becomes a tool for community building and a great on-ramp for those looking for a church.  A committee of volunteers can easily put together a fun afternoon or early evening event. I plan two to three hours for the event and include food, games, crafts, stewardship, outreach, and additional activities.

Food: Ideas for easy providing of food include inviting a few food trucks, grill hamburgers and hot dogs with pot luck sides, or have a chili cook-off.

Games: Carnival games are always a hit.  Ideas are Bean Bag Toss, Ring Toss, Duck Fishing, or a mix. Host a Scavenger Hunt with a list of people to get their names (great for interactions). Ideas include a vestry member, someone wearing purple, a clergy person, someone two years of age, etc.   Give out award medals to those who complete the hunt.

Other game ideas include Bingo (with fun prizes), Cornhole, and Four Square.  Everyone loves games using cut pool noodles.

Crafts: A fun Fall event includes a Pumpkin Painting or Carving Contest  Use paints or stickers and have a table to display them  Another idea is to have a “ Create an Ad” Poster Contest  Posterboard, markers, paint, and pencils are all that is needed  Display the finished products in the Parish Hall  theme ideas of “Why I Love My Church” or “My Church is the Place to Be” help inspire ideas.  I, always, have sidewalk chalk on hand to inspire the little artists

Stewardship or Outreach: After deciding on a project, we announce the goal in services and publicity for the festival.  We have collected can goods for the food pantry  For every canned good or $1 given, the person got to through a ball for a Dunking Booth  we had staff take turns in the Dunk Booth

We have set goals for stewardship and when they are achieved, the rector got a whip cream pie in the face.

We set jars out for people to put money into and the staff person with the most money gets water ballooned.

Other Activities:  Children love face painting.  Our youth, usually, volunteer to do it.

A Bounce House is always fun.  I invested in one because renting can cost about $400.  Click here to see the one I bought

 

A Fall Festival encourages community and fellowship.  Our parish looks forward every year to our annual event.

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Fall Event: Hosting a St. Francis Celebration/Festival

October 4 is the feast day of St. Francis of Assisi, known as the patron saint of animals.  Many communities use the first Sunday in October as a day to honor animals and those who care for them.  In the Episcopal Church, we usually have a blessing of the animals.  At our preschool, we invite the children to bring their stuffed animals and have a blessing.

Seting aside a day for pets is a fun event that can be used as a teaching and formation event.  I always start by telling the story of St. Francis, who was kind and loving to people and animals.  Reading a book with pictures makes this fun.  Three books I recommend for any age are:

 

If blessing live animals, be sure to have leaflets for all to participate.  Having a certificate or St. Francis Pet medal to give out, will remind all who came about this day and your church.

For stuffed animals, I ask the blessing that the animal chase away bad dreams, tears, and bring comfort.  I, also have a small Saint Francis doll on hand to show the children.

A great celebration or festival includes stations for those who wish to participate.  Ideas for stations include:

Invite the Police K-9 and Horse Units for demonstrations and to be part of the blessing.

Also invite the local shelter to bring some animals for adoption.  Ask them to have materials on care of pets for children.  Also, invite a veterinarian to give out treat bags or coupons.

Invite the surrounding neighborhood to bring their pets.  Make sure you request all animals to be on leash or in a cage.

St. Francis Day Celebration or Festival is a wonderful way to show love and care for creation.  It is a chance to honor our devoted animal friends.  It is a great way to introduce new people to our church and to be seen as a church that cares.

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Getting Ready for Fall: Christian Formation Fall Checklist

The Fall is the start of most parishes’ program year. There is so much to do!  Here is a checklist, which can be used by any church to ensure a successful start of the year.

Sunday School Formation

  • Teachers signed up, trained, and scheduled
  • Curriculum chosen, ordered, and given to teachers
  • Signs for each classroom with Name of Class, ages or grades if appropriate
  • Age/grade levels and class assignments posted in several locations
  • Registration forms and pens outside of each class
  • Take Home sheets about each class with discussion questions to continue the conversation
  • Attendance Sheets
  • Name tags
  • Basic supplies in each class: markers, pencils, scissors, stapler, glue, tape, paper, construction paper, Bibles

Children’s Chapel

  • Leaders trained and scheduled
  • Story props
  • Story order and dates
  • Curriculum, if used
  • Sermon/homily options, sites, ideas
  • Music
  • ”Bulletins” for readers
  • Altar supplies: candle, cross, Bible

Youth Group(s)

For All of the Above

  • Calendar with all important dates and starting times
  • Brochure of Family Ministries with descriptions, times and location for everything family
  • Evangelism plan (way to spread the word about church and happenings
  • Goals for year
  • Letter to parents with purpose of each ministry
  • Letter to participants about what they can expect
  • Will a snack be served and if so, what? when? How will it be supplied?

Events

  • Chair and Co-chair for each planned event
  • Description, purpose and goal for each event
  • Notes about event from previous years
  • Schedule of activities for each event
  • Supplis needed list (and budget) for each event
  • Helpers, volunteers, committee for each event
  • Will food be served? Will special furniture or room plan be required?
  • Advertisement or publicity plan for each event

Tools to help

This checklist is a great overview and way to start planning   Depending on the curriculum, activities, crafts, and games, additional supplies will be needed

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Getting Ready for the Fall: Rally Day

Planning for the first day of the Program Year sets the whole tone for a successful year.  Having a form of Rally Day, helps excite interest, promote motivation for families to attend, and create buzz for the year.

Successful “Rally Days” include volunteers, props, registration forms, well displayed possibilities, spreading the word, and excitement.  Having volunteers to give directions, hand out registrations, welcome all back, help the newcomer, and share possibilities is a must.  We have red balloons attached to clip boards and let people know to look for a balloon to get help. On the clip boards, have room assignments, a map, and other important information. Instruct volunteers on what to say when approached and to look for those who seem lost or confused.

Besides the balloons, we have little treats waiting in the rooms for those coming to the first day.  A special snack or small gift is a wonderful way to say, “Welcome, we are so glad you are here.”  I have given away bracelets (inexpensive fun option), candy with scripture, or wooden cross necklaces.  The idea is to make sure the children come away feeling welcomed, loved, and wanting to return.

A registration form with pertinent contact information, allergies, special needs, and permission for pictures to be taken and used is important.  I ask families to fill one form for all the children in their family every year.  This enables me to double check and make sure all the information we have on file is correct.  E-mails tend to change frequently. A letter explaining curriculum, what to expect, and other information should be given as a “Take Home” sheet for each class, Chapel or program.

Displaying all the options for ministry, Christian Formation, volunteer possibilities and ways to get involved is a must even for those members who are heavily involved.   Have fliers for coming dates.  Ideally, have a calendar of what is coming so they cna put it on their calendars.  Have sign up sheets for different areas of ministry, social groups, and ways for them to get more information. Have special displays for new ministries

As Rally Day approaches, build the excitement!  Have a coutdown, give “commercials”, have signs up, and encourage your congregation to invite friends.  On Rally Day, remind everyone, it is not too late.  Tell their friends and invite people to participate in different things happening.  I, also, send all the chidlren who participated in our Vacation Bible School or other Summer Events (usually over 100 children), to come to Rally Day.

To make the day special, have a breakfast or a picnic.  Look for ways to turn this day into a celebration of the coming year.  The start of the Program year is a time to celebrate!

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Getting Ready For Fall: Bible Presentations

Once upon a time, every house was filled with Bibles. Bibles were read together as a family. That was long ago. Many parents feel lost when it comes to the Bible and many children find the language difficult to understand. Bridging the Sunday Morning “Box” with home life, means helping parents navigate this important part of our faith.

Every Fall, at the end of September, I present those entering Second Grade and those new to our church family in other Elementary Grades above Second, a Bible. This is done during the service. Children are invited up to the front of the church. A prayer and a blessing is said over the books and over them.

The Bible we have given out over the last three years is Deep Blue Kids Bible. I did lots of research on this Bible and chose this one because it was easty to read, had lots of additional information for children, and had hints for parents. We use this Bible in our Sunday School Class, as well. This Bible will carry the children until they are ready to start Middle School.

If you are looking for a Bible for those entering First Grade, I recommend My First Message

I always put a sticker in the front of every Bible or book we give out saying it was a gift from the church. That way as the child grows up, it is a reminder that they are a member of a church family, wherever they are.

I, also, have a sheet inside the Bible with encouragements on reading together as a family. I let them know that questions will arise and that is good, because asking questions opens up the world, faith, and spirituality to them. I will always answer any questions!

Clicking on the Bibles will take you to a link to purchase them. Purchasing the Bibles through these links helps fund this site.

Getting Ready for the Fall:Volunteer Training

Want more volunteers? Need volunteers to stay active? There are two, low maintenance ways to guarantee your “yes” answer will be fulfilled. They both are simple and take little time, but prove extremely effective to achieving volunteers that are active and stay active.

The first is training. Having a training workshop will give volunteers confidence, encourage the fearful to volunteer, and strengthen every program. I have one day in August, before the start of our program year and do all the training that day. I do a check-in training update in January. The Fall training workshop is done on a Saturday, so everyone can come. I have lots of food and drink. The first group has bagels and fruit waiting for them. Lunch is delivered for two groups to enjoy. Afternoon snack of cookies and tea are waiting for the last group.

I group the workshops by ministry, dividing the Christian Formation Sunday Morning into age groups (3 years – Kindergarten, then Elementary, Youth.) I, also, do a Children’s Chapel training, Event Leader workshop, and Ministry Leader training. All involved, even returning volunteers, are encouraged to attend. All scheduling and assignments are done in this workshop by those involved. Rooms and supplies are set up. This is an important day and will make the program year run smoothly.

Covered in each workshop group is:
general information about expectations of time, space, and where to find things they might need,
money and budget issues,
developmental expections of the age they are working with, including spiritual and faith,
Curriculum, including a demonstration,
Issues or problems they might encounter
Specifics of their ministry
Roles
The groups, then, begin work on schedules, class space, and forming teams. I am in the general area for this part, but only for questions.

If you would like to get a specific copy of a ministry or development expectations by a certain age, there is a small fee. Send an email to [email protected] and I will let you know what is available and the cost.

The second thing I do for volunteers is use every holiday as a time to express thank you. I give every volunteer a small printed thank you with a small gift, which usually is a piece of candy. At Christmas, I give an ornament and at the end of the program year, a nice thank you gift. As the year progresses, I will share what I do for volunteers by coming holiday.

Do not forget Safe Church Training! This is vital for all ministries.

Trained volunteers are happy volunteers!

Getting Ready for the Fall: Kindergarten Parent & Child Breakfast

One of the most momentous occasions in a young family’s life is the starting of kindergarten for their child. This marks the moment that the child is moving away from a life centered on family to one of school and friends. As a mother, I joined many mother’s whose eyes were filled with tears after the first day drop off. There is no going back to a baby. Kindergarten signifies a permanent shift in the family.

It is important for the church to acknowledge this momentous step. Honoring and acknowledging this step moves the church out of the Sunday morning “box” and into a family’s life and home.

Besides the Blessings of Backpacks, which are done for all children, the Sunday before school starts, we have a Kindergarten Parent & Child Breakfast, usually before the main family service. The invitations to the breakfast are sent out a month ahead of time, so busy families can make plans. The room of the breakfast is set up as welcoming as possible and all are encouraged to wear nametags. The breakfast is a buffet to keep it casual and to be welcoming to any late-comers. Also, we tend to have those who did not RSVP come, so always allow for more food.

At the appointed time of the breakfast, I welcome everyone and say a prayer. They, then, get the food they would like. Once all are settled at a table eating, I talk about the importance of this day. I hand out a growth chart containing what is expected in the next year including Faith, Interpersonal, Values, Family and Needs of the Age. I talk about the importance of church and a faith life is to the growing child and their family. I, also, give hints of what to do when roadblocks, such as boredom or not wanting to come, hit. I then give out a Parent Booklet “Getting School Ready!” (Click on the Link to be taken to the site to get a free PDF.). I have on hand a book: Lessons Learned: The Kindergarten Survival Guide for Parents by Jeannie Podest, who is a teacher and parent. One option is to order enough copies for each parent to take home. Lastly, I give each child a book: Kindergarten, Here I Come by DJ Steinberg. Another really good one is On the First Day of Kindergarten by Trish Rabe. (Click on the books to go to Amazon to see and get the books). I remind parents and children that I am there for them. In each book given, I have a label that says “A Gift from St. Paul’s Children’s Ministry.”

Parents are very grateful for the breakfast and the attention. It reminds them that the church cares about them and what is happening in their lives. It, also, serves as an evangelism tool, as the parents will tell other parents at their school what a great thing their church did for them.

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Getting Ready for the Fall: Blessing the Backpacks

As children and youth get ready for the return to school, Blessing the Backpacks (or school bags) is a way for the church to acknowledge something big is happening in their lives and the family is making a shift.
Recognizing the flow of families’ lives allows the church to be seen as a relevant place in their lives and as a resource beyond the box that takes place within the parish’s walls. By this action, we encourage faith to be seen as part of our lives at school.

On the Sunday before the start of school, at the principal service (or family service), we call all the children to the front. A few words are said acknowledging the change in the flow of their lives and then we ask them to raise their backpacks. We remind them that God is with them wherever they go and that we are a family and they are with us even at school. A prayer for courage, wisdom, and faith is said over the backpacks and completed with a blessing. A gift is then handed out for the children to place on their backpacks.

I give out luggage tags with the St. Paul’s Episcopal Church and a picture on one side and then a Bible verse or prayer on the other. The luggage tags are sealed so they will last the whole year. I use an inexpensive the tags with the cord also come from Amazon.

To decide what goes on it, we ask the youth for ideas and choose one of their designs. We will use the luggage tag throughout the year in our Newcomers’ Welcome Bags.

We spread the word about the Blessing of Backpacks in our community and invite anyone to come. We encourage our children and youth to bring their friends. We usually have a very large group.

We follow up the service with some hospitality and encourage all to stay after the service and join us.

Click on any of the highlighted items to see what I used. Any items purchased through this link helps to fund this site.

LEGO® My Bible: Intergenerational Fun & Learning

LEGO®S are loved by everyone in every age bracket. For the last year, we have used them in several capacities to encourage Bible reading, attendance in Sunday School, an evening gathering, and a Sunday morning event after church services in the Summer.

At each event, I choose a story from the Bible for each group. If I have six tables set up, then I choose six different stories. I place two to three different translated Bibles, blank sheets of paper, pencils, pens, an instruction sheet, and a list of questions.

The question sheet includes who is this story about, where did the story take place, what happened before the story, what didn’t you like, what did you like,and how can you show this story to others?

The instructions start with a prayer, asking them to pray together, them tell them to read the story and discuss the questions. Upon finishing the discussion, they draw what they are going to build to show the story. I have a cart full of LEGO® sorted by color, along with a box of people. After they have built their story, they are instructed to write a one page paraphrase of their story and a prayer.

For Sunday School classes, I use Building Faith Brick by Brick. When we started to have our Spring slump, this energized our older elementary grades. The children and youth could not wait to come and finish their group projects. We displayed all finished products in a prayer walk opened to our whole parish.

For Inergeneratinal Events, I encourage seating at tables of various ages. Young and old work together to create a Bible piece. It encourages people to get to each other in a fun way.

For a bridge between family and Sunday morning, I encourage families to take a story home and bring their pieces and stories back the following Sunday.

For inspiration, purchase the Brick Bible or for use with younger children to help share what is happening in the parish. For additional fun, take pictures of the created pieces and make your own Bible.

For teens, who enjoy sets, there is a Last Supper kit, but I like the idea of them creating their own pieces.

One of the hardest and most expensive pieces are the people. I have included a link for buying a large set at an inexpensive price –people set.

Click on any of the highlighted items to see what I used.  Any items purchased through this link helps to fund this site.

Summer Excitement

Summers are a lazy and relaxed time.  School is out for children and their regular activities are on hold.  For most parishes, their regular programming is on hiatus.  This gives volunteers a needed rest and allows for a renewing for the coming program year.

Unfortunately, for most parishes, this means a slowing down in attendance.  It does not have to be.  Adding some summer programs can add excitement and have children waking up on Sunday morning begging to go to church.  Last year, I added some special Sundays that really created a buzz.  This year I repeated two and switched one, to keep the excitement level up.

One of the programs was simple and so much fun.  We used the feast day of St. Paul, to have a Superhero Sunday.  We encouraged everyone to dress as a superhero.  It was so cute to see even the babies dressed in costume.  The adults, also, got into the theme.  During Children’s Chapel, I told the story of St. Paul and talked about having the super powers of faith, hope, and love.  I discussed how we can have those super powers, too.  Each child received aSuper Hero Certificate After the service, we played Super Hero games and had snacks.  We used Silly String to play Spiderman tag.  I made a hero obstacle course.  We played Kryptonite keep away, too.  Everyone loved it and the children were excited to wear their costumes to church.  Some children even made up their own super hero and costume.

Another program was a water event.  We encouraged people to dress in Hawaiian clothing.  During Children’s Chapel, I told water stories from the Bible (Noah, Jonah, Moses, Jesus Baptism, Jesus Calms the Storm, and Woman at the Well).  After the service, we played water games (children got drenched), so people were encouraged to bring swimsuits and towels.  I used a water limbo game to be the animals (had to make a sound no one else made to get into ark).  I used a slip-and-slide to slide through the Red Sea from Exodus.  We used water balloons for the Baptism and storm stories and ended with a water relay race for the woman at the well.  We had popsicles for snack.

The final program was an intergenerational event after the service.  I will discuss it in another blog.

Summer is a chance to experiment, welcome newcomers, and have fun, while sharing God’s love.  The liturgical season is green, green for growing.  We can continue to grow in our faith, even when we are taking a rest.

Click on any of the highlighted items to see what I used.  Any items purchased through this link helps to fund this site.