Going Nowhere on the Cheap


When tough economic times come, one of the first things
to go is the annual family vacation…

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You know what that means in your children’s ministry, though:
You’ll have more chances than ever to minister to kids and their
families this summer!

Why not make the most of it? You can master the art of the
“staycation” — the stay-at-home vacation — in your ministry,
serve families, and have a wildly fun time in the process by using
a little creativity and inspiration from the road.

Use these stay-at-almost-home ideas to take families on
staycations they’ll never forget!

Children's Ministry Local Training

Invite families to go camping in their own ministry
backyard with this fun family excursion.

Destination: If your church has any type of
greenbelt or large lawn, you’ve got the perfect setting for a fun
one-night adventure on a Saturday. Invite your families to bring
tents, sleeping bags, flashlights, and other light camping gear for
a night of under-the-stars fun.

To give this backyard camping experience an extra dose of
adventure, set up various parts of your campground as different
events from the Bible. A great resource to use for this event is
Group’s Rome: Paul and the Underground Church, which includes a
complete program for food, traditions, crafts, games, and more that
help take families into the Bible.

Itinerary: Make your Backyard Bonanza camping
trip a memorable experience with a minimal amount of effort and
expense. Just follow these simple guidelines.

  • Prep — Recruit volunteers to serve as
    campground hosts, where they’ll present information about culture,
    tradition, food, and games specific to their biblical event.
  • Event — Invite families to arrive on Saturday
    afternoon and set up their campsites. Provide grills or a campfire
    for families to cook on (if you go with the campfire, check with
    your fire department for any needed permits and regulations). Make
    the camping experience more real by setting limits on the amount of
    time people can spend inside your church.

Encourage families to learn about the biblical region or event
they’re camping in by playing the games, tasting the food, and
learning more about the culture. When it’s dark, have families
gather around the campfire before bedtime and listen to the
campground host read a biblical passage relevant to what families
have been experiencing.

Volunteer Encouragement: Straight to the Heart

When the sun rises, greet families with a campfire breakfast
before they pack up and head to your church service.

It’s always fun to visit friends and family and stay in
someone’s home as a guest. And a new trend in vacationing is the
home-swap, where people in different locations swap homes for a
week or so to save the costs of a hotel, while still benefiting
from a great vacation destination. Why not try this idea on a
smaller scale with families?

Destination: Set aside one or two Saturday
afternoons this summer for your progressive trip. Families welcome
other families into their homes, provide refreshments or a meal,
and invite guests to explore their homes and play favorite family
games. At the scheduled time, families load up and travel on to the
next home on the list.

Itinerary: The progressive trip is a great way
for families to make a personal connection and strengthen ties. Use
these pointers to make it a success.

  • Prep — Ask families to sign up for a time
    block one month prior to the event (two-hour blocks work best).
    Provide a tip sheet of information to help make the trip a success,
    for instance, food ideas (mealtime vs. afternoon snack), alerts on
    kids’ allergies (no peanut-based snacks), safety considerations
    (keep the garage off-limits), and so on to help families prepare.
    For a sample tip sheet, go to Web Exclusives at
    childrensministry.com. Have a devotion honoring families at the
    final location. Ask traveling families to sign up so hosting
    families have an idea of the number of people to prepare for.
  • Event — On the day of the event, have
    families meet at your church. Distribute a schedule of homes
    complete with contact information, maps, and addresses. Then embark
    on the trip. Toward the end of your time at each home, pray for the
    host family. Then signal the time to move on. At the end of the
    evening, close with a prayer thanking God for the families who
    opened their homes and for the love and friendship your families

Many larger cities offer a type of City Pass ticket. A
City Pass allows admission to multiple tourist attractions in the
area at a fraction of the cost. This unique and under-used local
advantage — or your ministry’s version of it — can be a great
ticket to summer fun for your families.

How to Make Your Nursery Safe and Sound

Destination: Surveys show that many people have
visited only a few of their own region’s attractions. In fact, most
people only visit these attractions when out-of-town guests come.
So why not invite your ministry families to go on a staycation with
you right in their own neighborhood?

Invite families to purchase your town’s version of the City Pass
with the plan of visiting local attractions together. Or, if your
town doesn’t have a City Pass, create a schedule of attractions to
see, and invite families to go together. Prior to each excursion,
contact the venue and inquire about group and nonprofit discounts.
Let the organization know approximately how many people will be
coming, and ask about discounts on meals and any other special
offers you can negotiate.

Itinerary: You can sponsor a City Pass
staycation for one week or for several weeks during the summer.
Just use these ideas to make your ministry excursion a five-star

  • Prep — Research various attractions in your
    town and surrounding areas. Consider whether you’d prefer to make
    the excursions half-day, one-day, or weekend trips. Then find
    excursions that fit your time frame. Post a schedule of
    attractions, cost per person, and sign-up sheet. Once you have a
    head count, determine whether families will drive separately or if
    you’ll carpool. Recruit several volunteer tour guides who can lead
    groups of travelers at each attraction. For extra fun, create
    staycation T-shirts your families can purchase and wear on each
    excursion. This helps keep your group together and identifiable, as
    well as publicizes your ministry. For each excursion, print
    schedules that include meeting times and points, mealtimes, and
    tour guides’ cell phone numbers to stay in touch during the
  • Event — Set a time to meet at your church or
    departure point. Travel together to the destination. Once there,
    form groups led by your volunteer tour guides. As you visit the
    attraction, ask families to note things about it that stand out to
    them and why.

Once your visit is over, have groups talk about the things that
stood out to them and why. Then the tour guides can lead their
groups in prayer, thanking God for the specific things people
noted. As you depart, invite families to travel along on your next
excursion. Provide a flier publicizing the next event.

Recruiting Secrets From a Veteran

Your ministry can sponsor zany mini-vacations all summer
long — all designed by the kids in your ministry.

Destination: Set aside one Saturday each month,
and let your kids choose what their families will do for a
staycation. It’s as easy as having them cast a vote.

Itinerary: Give your kids a voice with this
ultra-fun, totally unique approach to family staycations. Just use
these tips to get in gear.

  • Prep — All you need to do is give kids a
    ballot two weeks before each Kids Pick Saturday. Give them options,
    such as Pajama Party Day, Picnic Lunch Day, Play at the Park Day,
    Read a Book Day, or Other (and space to write). Include other
    voting options, such as snacks to be served (blue mashed potatoes
    and licorice ice cream, anyone?), music, indoors or out, and so on.
    And include a place for kids to write in their favorite things
    about church, their families, summer, and more. Publicize the vote
    and have kids cast their ballot after church at a
    specially-decorated voting booth.
  • Event — Once you’ve determined the winning
    choice, get busy planning for a Saturday morning (with or without
    lunch) that offers games, experiences, and crafts related to the
    kids’ choice for fun. Lots of publicity and classroom announcements
    will help ensure that families attend — and spark anticipation for
    the next Kids Pick vote. At the event, encourage families to turn
    off their cell phones and Blackberrys and totally focus on enjoying
    what kids have chosen. Ask your senior pastor to attend and say a
    prayer of thanks to God for all of the favorites kids listed in
    their ballots.

Kids Pick may become a favorite ministry tradition, even long
after the economy turns around!

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