Virtual Summer Camp

Families are looking for something to fill their children’s time. This is a great time for church’s to offer them a chance to grow in faith.

If you are like us in North Carolina, most Vacation Bble Schools were canceled. Virtual VBS is still a possiblity, but many of the things that make a VBS fun and different are lost with the online version.

Offering a unique camp experience done on line, can draw families closer to God and with their church.

Creating the Camp

First, pick a popular movie for families. We chose Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory, but any movie will do.

Second, pick characters in the movie and come up with their moral tie-in. find Bible stories that deal with this tie-in. For Augustus Goop, I chose gluttony and then picked the Bible story of Esau giving away his inheritance (Genesis 25:29-34), Veronica Salt (self-indulgent) and chose Parable of the Prodigal Son (Luke), Violet Beauregarde (rude) and chose Zechariah laughing at the angel, and so forth.

Third, find a craft kit, game, activity pages, musical videos, and on-line sources for each day.

Fourth , get youth and adults to film skits.

Fifth-order supplies, register families, and get ready for a week of fun!

Schedule of Camp

The week before, every family picks up their kit.

On the Sunday, families watch the movie together (we made sure it was on Netflix and Amazon Prime). We also included a chocolate bar with a golden ticket saying they have been chosen to join us for camp.

Monday – Friday: We start off each day with an introduction of the day. “Willy Wonka” tells us about the character, the Bible story, and a short lesson and prayer. There are links to videos to watch our youth telling or acting out the Bible story. There is a scheduled Zoom for a group game. Inside the kit is the days craft kit with instructions, links to music video, Bible cartoon of story, other activities. At 11:30 AM, we have a large group Zoom to review the morning, talk aobut the lesson, and play another game.

Outreach activities and snack activities can be included too. I, also, looked for little toys, pencils and other giveaways for each child for the story or lesson of the day.

For Later

We plan an outdoor get together for all the families that participated and will have an Eucharist when we are able to get back together safely.

Helping Families Grow in Faith in Summer from Home Part 2

As Summer 2020 promises to be challenging for all of us, here are some more ideas (see Helping Families Keep Church During the Summer) to connect families during our time in physical/social distancing. 

Camps, Vacation Bible Schools, and all the plans that usually make up our Summer, are not going to happen this year except on line.  Here are some activities that involve us getting off line, but still growing in faith.

Bible Story Treasure Hunt:  Each family gets a Bible Story to read and a poster board.  After a family reads their story, they design a picture to show their story.  They place the poster board in a place that can be seen from the road.  Each family participating gets a list of families addresses, stickers, and a list of the stories (one a page) with some questions on it.

The families drive around and find the poster.  They guess which story it is, answer some questions, and then put a sticker on the page to show they completed it.  Publish the names for your families of those who completed the hunt.  Get families to take pictures of their posters.

Bible Story Scavenger Hunt:  Each week, families receive a different Bible story.  After reading it, there is a list of objects that go with the story (David-sheep, musical instrument, rocks, sling shot, very tall person, crown, etc.).  Each child or family, checks off when they spot all of the objects that go with the story.  Put the first names of the children who complete it in the church newsletter.

Church Member Tag:  Place a picture or an object in the front door of a family.  Send them an email or leave a letter that says they are it.  They must complete four challenges before they can “tag” another family to be it.  The challenges: using the object or picture (after it has been cleaned), come up with silly things from Bible Stories to do with it.  Once the challenges are complete, they place the picture or object at a family of their choosing, sending an email or letter to tell them they are it.

Loving our Neighbor: Get a list of older people from your parish and let them know that they are on a list of love.  Families can choose from the list and do a good deed: make a meal, do yard work, weed a garden, get groceries or do a small act.

LEGO Bible Build:  Each week, send out a Bible Story and ask the families to build a LEGO representation of the story.  Have them send in the pictures and create a photo page for each story.

Activities to Help Families Feel Connected During the Summer

Many families travel for long periods of time during the Summer or use Summer as a chance to withdraw from activities to rest.  As we are currently in an unusual Summer, with social distancing facing our Summer, it is more important than ever to find ways for families to practice and grow in faith.  If the activities or kits come from their Church, then it connects them to their church family and reminds them they have a place that cares for them.

Usually, I would do a “Church on the Go” bag filled with activities and ways to worship while away.  But being away from the building is the “normal” for Summer 2020. Beyond live-streaming, here are some ways to help families keep “church”.

*Flat Jesus or bendable Jesus:  Mail out to each family (or have a pick up location) a Jesus to color, or one that is completed and laminated or a toy bendable Jesus (click on link to find this).  With it come these instructions:

               1. Give them three or four parables to read, suggesting one a week.  Give a few “I wonder” or discussion questions with each parable.  They are to take their Jesus and find ways to show the parable.  Give them a place (email, dropbox, etc.) to send these photos then at the end of the Summer, make a parable book to give out (using copy machine, Shutterfly, etc.)

               2.  Give them the “I AM” statements and have them show who Jesus was, doing as above through taking pictures. Have some discussion questions for each “I AM” statement.

               3. Give them some of Jesus miracles or a paraphrase of the Sermon on the Mount. Let the families take photos of the things they are thankful for and where they find God.

*Give them a picture of your altar (5 x 7 at least) along with copies of Morning Prayer and readings.  Before the family does Morning Prayer together, have them create a sacred space including the picture of the altar.  Give them a theme for each week to decorate the space or table (i.e. God’s creation: collect flowers, rocks, pictures of animals or stuffed animals).  Tell them that even though we are not together, we are all the church and our worship is beyond places. 

*Send out a coloring page of a stained-glass window or outside of your church.  Have the families use that as a template to color.  Have it say on the back, “We prayed for you today.  Church Name loves you.”  Have them pray for people and leave it on their doorstep.

*Give them some short lines from Psalms that are about joy and love.  Have them write the lines on a rock, decorate the rock with paint or permanent marker, and leave in places where they go.  Each week, release another psalm with a prayer the family can say over their creation.

*Choose a Bible story for the Summer theme.  For each week for six weeks give them something to do with that story.  For example, the first week would be telling the story with some discussion questions.  The second week would be a craft that goes with the story.  The third week would be a science experiment that goes with the story.  The third week would be an outreach project that goes with the story.  The fourth week would be a game that goes with the story.  The fifth week would be food focused (make something).  The sixth week would be a video of the story or watch a recording of someone talking about the story.

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!

Click  on the underlined items to get a link to what I have used. Purchasing through the links, helps fund this sit. 

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.

Church on The Go Bags

 

The most asked about bridge between the Sunday morning “box” and home is the Church on the Go bags.  Families of all sizes, with all different age groups, have taken, used, and loved these kits.

Based on the belief that we are the church wherever we are, Church on the Go kits build a bridge between families traveling or vacationing to their home parish.  These kits include everything needed for the family to build an altar, worship together and have fun.  Activities included are not just for Sunday worship. Included are suggestions for decorating the altar, family activities, children activities, and different types of prayer. Some activities can be done solo, like a finger labyrinth and coloring pages, while others encourage group and family time.

I put the bags together and have them in a designated spot (we use a back table) every Sunday for vacationing families.  Anyone can pick up a bag, before they go on vacation, for use while away.  I replenish the bags as needed through the summer.

By using a photo of our altar (5” x 7”), the altar the family builds reminds them that, even though they are not physically with us, they are a part of our family.  Other items included in altar bag (1 gallon bag) are tea candles, green altar cloth (Season after Pentecost) and instructions for making an altar.

The larger, Church on the Go bag, contains the altar bag, two Morning Prayer services (from the BCP), with all the choices removed (so the Venite, one psalm only, one canticle after each reading, one suffrages, and two prayers chosen.)  It also contains themes to decorate the altar and a list of readings that follow that theme (printed out so a Bible is not needed).  There are easily sing-able hymns included, too.

In addition to the Sunday worship service, the kit contains a trifold of Graces for Meals, Finger Labyrinth, coloring sheets, children bulletins with puzzles and mazes, ideas for talking and sharing points, stickers, crayons, and coloring pencils.

Instructions included are:

Church on the Go

St. Paul’s Episcopal Church

Instructions for Altar & Service

 

  1. Look over Service & choose a theme.
  2. Put together your altar
    1. Green cloth for the Season after Pentecost
    2. Candles on each side.
    3. Put up your picture of St. Paul’s altar (for the cross & to celebrate with us!)
    4. Decorate your altar by placing objects from theme suggestion.
    5. Take a picture of your altar (with family members & send to us).
  3. Pick one person to be officiant for service (they get their own book) & someone to do the readings (that person picks two readings from the theme.)
  4. Do the service following the instructions in the Service Pamphlet.
  5. Two hymns are included on sheet if you would like to use them.

 Other ideas to keep each year fresh is to change out the hymns, children’s bulletins and color pages.  For bags geared towards family with youth (older children) include mazes, decoders, car games, family trivia (have some fun and base the trivia questions on your clergy and known activities) and other resources to keep families engaged at any age.

Ask the families to share their experience or use of the bags.  We asked the families to post their altars on social media and tag the parish.

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

Green Altar cloths

Tea Candles (2 per kit)

Bags