Summer Ideas for Children’s Ministry

Summer 2021 is an in-between time.  Some of our ministries to children and their families have started to transition to some gatherings in person, some remain online and some are dormant.  Our families are feeling stressed and their new routines may not involve church life, but most of the students have returned to in-person learning.  It is time to help feed their spiritual journey, flex their faith muscles (which will help them deal with their stress), and build their connection to church. 

Here are some Summer time ideas that can help you in your ministry feed your congregation:

  1. Online Summer Camp based on a popular movie: families watch the movie on Sunday, then Monday through Friday they enjoy activities, Bible Story, crafts, videos, puzzles, and one or two Zoom get togethers each day.  To add an in-person gathering, finish Friday with a gathering outside.  With the movie, I tie each character or situation the character faces with a Bible character and give the day a theme based on that.  This year I am doing “Toy Story”.  Last year, I did Willy Wonka”.  Last years was very popular!  The whole camp for 30 children cost less than $33 a day.  To purchase the plan for last year’s Willy Wonka Summer Camp, email me at [email protected] .  The cost is $5.
  2. Vacation Bible School:  Consider doing outdoors with less children.  For music, teach the motions and include a CD in the price for each family.  Have tables set up for crafts.  If doing snacks, do prepackaged.  Children just want to be together!
  3. Books with a Purpose: I am leading a program for parents and their children on dismantling racism.  We start with a webinar for parents only with techniques to help them have the conversation.  We have a book list with 4-5 books for each age group (infant-preschool, early elementary, and older elementary ages) with a Reading Guide for each book.  We check in to see how it is going, send out an email with tips each week, and offer ideas to enhance the conversation.  We close with a webinar for children and their parents focused on honest discussion and some activities.  In September, we are having a panel of three of the authors to discuss their books.
  4. Outdoor Children and their Families Worship: gather in an area park.  Everyone brings their own chair or blanket and a picnic. I put out dots or pool noodles to show the distancing.  We start with a worship service, then move to a lunch, and then families can enjoy the park.
  5. Outdoor Movie Night: Set up a drive-in at your church and enjoy a family movie night.  Each family brings their own blanket or chairs to sit in.
  6. Offer your families Devotions and Formation using www.laurensline.com/family-devotions-formation/  Each week a new Devotion is put up.  Includes Bible Story, meditation, prayer, discussion questions, and optional activities.
  7. Plan for the Fall!  Work on building activities and formation for the Fall.  Build the excitement with newsletters, emails, and Zoom calls.

Shrove Tuesday: A Virtual Gathering

Virtual Shrove Tuesday Families Will Remember

In previous years, many churches had their traditional Pancake Supper on Shrove Tuesday, the evening before Ash Wednesday.  Shrove Tuesday was a time to “rid our pantries of all the fat and sweet” items to get ready for Lent. Pancake Suppers have been the way we do this.  Shrove Tuesday is, also, known as Fat Tuesday.  It is the end and the highlight of most Mardi Gras celebrations.

Gathering this year is impossible, but letting this special celebration disappear would make many of our families sad.  It is a tradition, especially children, look forward to. Connection to each other is more important than ever.

This year, I have put together 4 delicious pancake recipes and two yummy topping recipes.  I am sending them out to everyone in our parish, encouraging them to make one or their own recipe.  Dress up or decorate their tables for Mardi Gras (if they would like) and join me for a Zoom Call at 6:00 PM on Shrove Tuesday.  The Zoom call is brief, just a chance to say grace together and then take a few minutes for everyone to show off their pancakes.  We end the call and everyone enjoys their meal.

If you would like a copy of the recipes, just drop me an email at [email protected]. Or put out a call in your parish and name the recipe for the person who sent it as a way for everyone to connect further.

Lent 2021: Take Home Kits

This year we find ourselves isolated and still living in a world with a pandemic.  Many people are feeling anxious, stressed, lost, and sad.  It is a normal reaction to what is happening around us.  Reaching and connecting with families is more important than ever.  We need hope, connection, and faith.

As those who work with children, we may be feeling a little overwhelmed ourselves.  For those people, I have found a program that is easy to do and requires little work on the Children’s Minister.  A paid program that comes highly recommended by others working with children in my diocese is the Lent Program from Illustrated Ministries.  The program is Reflections from the Heart.  Each week includes scripture, reflection, questions, activity, prayer and a coloring page.  The cost is based on the size of the church ($39.99-$69.99).  Their website is Illustratedministry.com.

For those looking for a more hands on approach, I have written a format for Living in Community.

We all need others.  God gave us community.  As a child, we needed other to care for us.  As we grow older, we need others to teach us, to help us learn who we are, and to give us friendship.  We need God all the time.  The relationship with God gives meaning to all the other relationships in our lives.

Decorate bags with pictures of community.  Put these six objects in the bag: Rock (with a cross or heart painted on or get Rockimpact with Engraved Cross), Heart, battery operated candle, bandage, small sheep, chalice charm (Pepperloney brand).  Put each small object in its own plastic bag.

Include these short questions with each object.  (See bottom for link to objects used).

A small booklet with all the Bible verses is recommended.  Instructions to pick one time a week that family is gathered.  One person pulls an object out of the bag.  The Bible verse is read.  The object is passed around with each person holding the object answers the questions.  End the session in prayer.

Rock: Matthew 4:1-11.  Jesus knew that connection with God is important even when he seemed to be alone.  Do you pray when you are alone?  What do you do to connect with God?  Have you felt God’s presence?  How did God give Jesus strength to resist temptation?  How can you get strength form God?

Heart: Jesus chooses his Apostles (pick one or two).  How do you think Jesus choose his friends?  What do you think made a person a good Apostle?  Who are your good friends?  Jesus’ friends were good listeners.  Are you a good listener?  What qualities do you want in a friend?  How can you be a good friend?

Candle: Jesus Transfiguration (Matthew 17: 1-13). Jesus took his friends with him and they saw him with Moses and Elijah, prophets that lived long ago.  We are all connected to those who came before us.  Ask your parents about your family tree.  If your grandparents are alive, call them and ask them to share a story from their childhood about their family and their friends.  What do you have around your house that was handed down from your family?  What things would you want to hand down to your future children and grandchildren?

Bandage: Parable of the Good Samaritan (Luke 10:25-37).  Being a good neighbor is important.  How was the Samaritan a good neighbor?  What does being a good neighbor mean? What is something you can do to be a good neighbor to someone who lives on your street?  What can you do to be a good neighbor to someone at your school?  Is there a project your church is doing that your family can get involved in and be a good neighbor to those in need? 

Sheep: The Lost Sheep & The Good Shepherd (Luke 15:1-7 & John 10:1-18).  How did the shepherd take care of the sheep?  What do these parables say about our relationship with God?  Do you like thinking of God as your shepherd?  Jesus looks for the lost sheep.  Who are people who are lost?  What are ways someone can be lost?  How can you help them?

Chalice charm: The Last Supper (John 13) Jesus gave us a rule (new commandment), that we love and care for each other as he would.  How does Jesus want us to care for others?  What ways can we be nice, even when it is hard?  How can we be nice when we are angry at someone?  How can we find ways to care for people we do not know well?

Link to objects:

Rocks

Hearts

Battery Operated Candles

Bandages (any plain ones will do)

Sheep

Chalice Charm

LEGO Masters Tournament for Children and Youth Ministry

Coming up with ways to connect our children and youth with each other and with our church leadership has taken inventive thinking. One of the most successful has been our LEGO Master Tournament.

Based on the television show of the same name, families formed teams. Everyone did their projects at home and we meet weekly on Zoom.

Lego Master Tournament: Children and families form teams to be a part of a six week tournament. Families or children or youth register in advance. Levels are adjusted for ages. Each week the child/team builds a scene that is assigned to them. A video of the build is taken by family. Lego builds are uploaded to a dropbox. The congregation has two days to vote/judge the projects. The projects are voted on for creativity, staying true to the story, use of LEGOs, and originality in telling the story. Builds are based on Bible stories, Liturgy Parts, Church History, and Sacraments.  The whole church got involved. The children, youth and families were creative, spent time researching their project, and went way beyond what was expected. They ended up teaching the whole congregation about the Bible, Liturgy, Church History, the Sacraments and our community.

Each week: the highest score picks first story and then go in order.  Each team choses a different story. We meet on Zoom to remind them of how they are scored, get the scores from the previous week and pick their assignments. We met Sundays. They had until Thursday at noon to complete and video tape their project. We uploaded them to Vimeo and put a link in the newsletter for people to vote.

Week One Challenge-Old Testament

Week Two Challenge-New Testament

Week Three Challenge-Parts of Liturgy

Week Four Challenge-Church History

Week Five Challenge-Sacraments

Week Six Challenge-St. Paul’s Community

Instructions for teams each week:

Team takes a Video:

  1. Tell Assignment
  2. Show Completed Lego from all sides.
  3. Explain how team came up with idea and anything you think we should know.
  4. Email to Dropbox by Noon on Thursday.

Team takes a picture of team with Lego build for our newsletters, Facebook & Instagram accounts.

Loaded for Congregation and Voting start Monday at 5:00 PM.  Voting Closes Wednesday at 5:00 PM.

 Voting 1-5 with 1 being did not achieve it, 5 being excellent

  1. Overall Creativity
  2. Use of Lego Blocks
  3. Stayed true to story/assignment
  4. Originality in telling/showing story

I averaged the scores for each category above and then added them together.

Week One story ideas (Old Testament):

  • Jacob’s story (especially the wrestling with an angel)-Genesis 32
  • Balaam (and the Talking Donkey) -Numbers 22
  • Ezekiel & visions – Ezekiel 1
  • Deborah & victory – Judges 4 (might be too graphic?)
  • Joshua & wall collapsing-Joshua 6
  • Meshack, Shadrack and Abendigo -Daniel 3
  • King Jehoshaphat- 2Chronicles 19-20
  • The Tower of Babel – Genesis 11
  • Samson – Judges 14-15
  • Elisha and the bears- 2 Kings 2
  • Naaman 2 King 5

Challenge 2: New Testament Stories

  • Story of Zechariah-Luke 1: 5-25
  • Simeon meets Jesus-Luke 2: 25-35
  • Four Friends encounter Jesus-Mark 2:1-12
  • Jesus heals the 10 Lepers- Luke 17:11-19
  • Jesus Quiets the Storm: Mark 4:35-41 & Matthew 8:23-27
  • Parable of the Prodigal Son: Luke 15:11-32
  • Jesus raises Lazarus from the dead: John 11:17-44
  • Jesus appears to Paul-Acts 9:3-19
  • Paul and Silas in Prison-Acts 16:16-40
  • Other ideas-Samaritan woman at well

Challenge 3: Parts of Liturgy (find all in Book of Common Prayer)

  •                Gloria (p 356)
  •               Hymn (any)
  •                Nicene Creed (p 358)
  •                The Confession & Absolution (p 360)
  •                The Lord’s Prayer (p 364)
  •                Morning Prayer-canticle (p 85- 95)
  •                Morning Prayer-General Thanksgiving (p 101)
  •                Psalm (any- starting p 585)
  •                Eucharist-the Great Thanksgiving  (p361-365)

Challenge 4: Church History

  •   Martin Luther and the 95 theses 
  • Queen Elizabeth I
  • Henry VIII
  • Any Reformation References
  • Samuel Seabury (First Episcopal Bishop)
  • Civil Rights Movement 
  • Philadelphia 11
  • Katharine Jefferts Schori (First Female Presiding Bishop)
  • Council of Nicea

Challenge 5: The Sacraments (explained BCP page 858-859 and services in BCP)

  •                 Baptism
  •                Holy Eucharist
  •                Confirmation
  •                Ordination
  •                Holy Matrimony
  •                Reconciliation of a Pentinent
  •                Unction of the Sick
  •                Baptismal Covenant (BCP 304-305)
  •                Baptismal Vows (BCP 305)

Challenge 6: St. Paul’s Community

  •  Church Service at St. Pauls
  • Children’s Ministry at St. Pauls
  • Youth Ministry at St. Pauls
  • Outreach-Serving others at St. Pauls
  • House of Prayer
  • Holy Days at St. Pauls
  • Christian Formation/Sunday School at St. Pauls
  • Favorite service or event at St. Pauls
  • An event at St. Pauls
  • Music Ministry at St. Pauls

I purchased two gold LEGO blocks on key rings. The LEGO Master for children age and for youth age each receive a gold block. They then become the judges for the next LEGO Master Tournament.

Halloween and All Saints Event for Families (Outdoors)

Saints Scavenger Hunt: For a two hour period, families are invited to walk in our open field area and find saints.  The saints are on a stick.  Each saint has a picture or icon on one side and a description of their life on the other side.  When families arrive, they get a sheet with a line about a saint.  They walk the saints and identify the saint on their sheet of paper that matches the one line description on their sheet.  Once they have identified all the saints, the family gets a bag of candy for each child.  The candy is prepackaged a week before.

Then they can walk through our haunted playground. At the playground, spaces were pre-assigned.  Our families decorated their assigned and physically distanced space.  Our younger youth stayed within their family decorated playground space.  Pool noodles were placed for families to walk and stay at least six feet from the haunted playground haunters.  Candy and Halloween toys were tossed by those wearing gloves.

For all events, everyone wears a mask and plenty of hand sanitizer is placed about.

Other ideas for All saints: have adults take on the role of saints and write letters to young children, provide coloring sheets, and/or have a saint a day for a few weeks putting up a saint with information about him or her.

For Saint Scavenger Hunt:

Need:   

  • Pictures of saints (laminated) with information on back
  • Handout with a fact to match & one or two questions
  • Bags of candy
  • Gift bag
  • Hand sanitizer
  • Craft sticks to place Saint in ground
  • Table for candy
  • Start Table
  • Stick name plate that says “I am a Saint” and craft sticks at prize table.

Before Event:

  1. Make the Saints with facts
  2. Purchase prize bags
  3. Put together prize bags
  4. eedevent
  5. Put saints on craft sticks
  6. Decide location
  7. Set up event
  8. Get someone to take pictures

During Event :

  • People pick up Saint handout search at start table (do outside).  People come in costume.  Have camera to take pictures.
  • People look around field, playground and other outside areas for saints.  When they find them, they put the name of the saint to match the search fact.  When they have found all the saints, they bring their sheet to the prize table.  Each child receives a prize bag.  Adults get to a piece of candy.
  • The children put their name on a name plate on a craft stick that says “I am a Saint!”  They can stick them in the ground anywhere along the search area.

After Event:

  • Clean up area
  • Put all Saints away for another year
  • Move “I am a Saint” to a common place for a few weeks
  • Put prizes left over away.
  • Send pictures for publicity.
  • Do a small write up.

Saints being used 2020

  1. Nicholas
  2. David Pendleton Oakhater
  3. Hannah More
  4. Paul
  5. Peter
  6. John
  7. Patrick
  8. Francis
  9. Brigid
  10. Kevin
  11. Martha
  12. Catherine of Siena
  13. Sojourner Truth
  14. Florence Nightingale
  15. Absalom Jones
  16. Mother Teresa
  17. William Wilberforce
  18. Martin
  19. Elizabeth, Princess of Hungary
  20. Lucia

For Haunted Playground:

Need:

  • Way to mark family area for each haunter.
  • Pool Noodles
  • Gloves
  • Candy

Before event:

  • Get families to sign up that they will decorate.  Each family brings their own decorations, their own chairs to sit on, and candy to hand out. 
  • Mark space for each family and assign space.
  • Hand out gloves to those tossing candy.
  • Put pool noodles to act as walk way.

At Event: Ensure families walking event stay socially distant.

After event: Each family cleans up their space.

Celebrating Starting Kindergarten Online

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.

This year is different. Some will not be able to attend schools, because the schools are closed to in-person learning, some parents are too worried to risk sending their child to school, and some will attend, but an air of worry goes with it.

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

The invitations to a Zoom on-line breakfast are sent out a month ahead of time, so busy families can make plans. I am doing it the week before school is set tp start. With each RSVP, I create a Kindergarten kit. The kit contains the books mentioned below, a growth chart with spiritual, physical, and emotional milestones, a pencil and a backpack tag that says the church loves them. Kits can be picked up, mailed or delivered if it is a small group.

I decorate the room that I am making the Zoom call from. At the appointed time, we all join in for breakfast. I ask the children if they are worried, excited, what they are looking forward to,

Once all are settled, I talk about the importance of this day. I discuss the growth chart and 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. The kit contains 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.

We do not have to let worry and fear take away from this beloved moment in a child’s life.

Clicking on and purchasing any of the items through this site, helps to fund this site. Thank you.

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.

Virtual Lego Ministry Night

With the COVID-19 keeping us isolated at home, a fun activity to engage our church members is a Lego Bible Night. This can be done over several nights or days.

Choose one Bible story per family involved. Have a print out of the story or a link to the story. Make each one a different story and make sure it is something that families can use to make come alive. Give or send each family their story. Include with the story or link some information/background material (what was happening, the time, a little history, etc.). Give them some discussion questions to think about. Send a prayer families can say before they start their build.

Working together, the family creates a Lego piece that shares the story. They can video tape themselves talking about the piece and retelling the story or hold a zoom meeting and each family shares with the others involved. Make sure to get pictures of the completed works, so they can be shared witht he whole parish.

After the Zoom call when all are shared, close in prayer and thank the families for sharing in this time. Families might enjoy this so much, that they would like a story a week.

Keep all the pictures and create a story book for the children or video link with all the videos.

Celebrating with Families: Fifth Grade Breakfast

One of the most important things a children’s ministry can do is be a part of a family’s everyday life.  Moving outside of Sunday.  This tells the child and the family, that they are important, they matter, and God is a part of their lives beyond church.

Helping families develop rituals will help them find ways to incorporate their faith into the special moments.  Most families love to find ways to celebrate and include their faith, but are unsure what to do.

It is, also, important for the church to acknowledge and celebrate the milestones in a child’s life.  This says, you are a part of our family.  God loves you.  We love you.  We are here for you.

An important milestone in a child’s life that often gets overlooked is a child’s move from Elementary School to Middle School.  Children have mixed feelings about this move.  Along with excitement, there is fear of the unknown, stress of the what ifs, and grief over what is being left behind.  Parents are feeling these mixed feelings too.  Their child is growing and moving into the teenage part of life.  The obstacles and dangers are real.  The expectations parents place on themselves as they try to include so much in their child’s life can cause stress and anxiety.

One of the things I do to celebrate and help is to hold a Fifth Grade Breakfast.  We invite the parents and their fifth grade child.  Our fourth graders serve and act as hosts.  We do this at the end of fifth grade, usually the weekend before school ends.

We start off with prayer and then enjoy a buffet breakfast.  Once everyone has eaten about ¾ of their plate, we start the program.  After thanking the parents for sharing their child with me, I tell the children how much it has meant to me to be a part of their lives.  I remind them of their spiritual journey and there are many steps left.  I remind them how faith can help them and how much they are loved by their church family.

I give the parents a developmental chart which includes what to expect for the next six years including spiritual, physical, emotional, mental, and other aspects growth.  Similar to the developmental sheet parents got when their child was an infant, this helps parents to know what is coming and how to help or step back while their child moves through this last part of childhood.

Our Youth Leaders, then, talk about youth group and youth formation.  Emphasizing the importance of this in their developmental journey.  We offer support of the parents, as well as, the teen.

After questions and answers, we ask each of the parents to say how their child was a blessing to them.  It is very beautiful to hear and the children are very moved.

We end it with a blessing and a promise that I will always be there for them and this church will always be their home.

Because COVID-19 physical distancing, we could not do our fifth grade breakfast.  We mailed each family a developmental chart and mailed a card to each child telling them how much we love them.  If it is possible, we will hold the fifth grade breakfast at the start of the program year before their sixth grade year starts.  If not, the contact is important.

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.