Summer. Kids are experiencing down time — time that could easily be filled with video games and television after the initial thrill of a break from school wears off. At Crossroads Covenant Church in Loveland, Colorado, we’ve placed a high value on summer as a prime opportunity to minister to children in our community through a variety of summerlong activities and events.
Spring is in the air. We publicize our summer program as soon as the ground starts to thaw. Waiting to advertise what your church offers over the summer can be detrimental to participation. Crossroads promotes its summer programming not only to our regular church attendees, but we also make a deliberate attempt to advertise in the community. We create fliers that are distributed through the public schools, and we hang posters where kids are — the local recreation center, the public library, movie theaters, dance studios, and anywhere kids go.
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Start big! We start our summer programming with a week of vacation Bible school. This is usually our biggest attendance draw, and it’s a great hook for kids because they rarely leave on Friday without wishing they could return for more. We concentrate on hospitality during the week, making sure kids feel welcome and connected with leaders and peers. We create a fun environment by decorating according to our theme and playing energetic music. We also make a connection with parents at the end of the week by inviting them to our closing program and thanking them for letting our team enjoy their kids for the week. We then invite kids and families to participate in the variety of activities we offer during the rest of the summer, and we have volunteers available to take new registrations.
Tap kids’ interests. Weeklong day camps are the perfect way to provide learning opportunities in areas where kids have an interest, such as sports, art, drama, or science. At Crossroads we provide day camps that cover topics kids want to learn about. We bring in local experts to talk with kids or teach on a particular topic. High school or college athletes make great instructors and pass the “cool” filter with kids. High school teachers often appreciate a change of pace when offered the chance to spend a day with elementary-age kids. And a church’s drama director can use a day of teaching drama to kids as an opportunity to spark interest in future volunteers. We let kids get a taste of specialty areas by providing lots of time to experiment and dig in through active participation.
Day camps not only offer opportunities to help kids develop lifelong interests and hobbies, but they also open the door to teaching kids about God in creative ways. Providing kids with sports heroes who love God, teaching kids to use their talents and abilities to serve at church, and looking at scientific concepts with the truth that we have a Creator who made it all introduces unchurched kids to our amazing God, and it gives churched kids a chance to grow in their faith.
Every Friday is fun. Fun Friday is a summer program at Crossroads that provides an alternative to a day camp program. Every Friday we plan a special activity for kids to have fun at church or a designated destination. Some Fridays we go to the zoo or a water park — places that encourage parents to come spend the day with their kids and other families. Other Fridays we go someplace that’s an easy drop-off for parents, such as a local park for play and a picnic, or a kid-friendly restaurant for pizza and video games. On some Fridays we have a day at the church for movies or wacky water fun. Fun Fridays have become a favorite summer day for everyone — parents love to have the day to relax or to join us for a family event that requires little planning for them. Our team loves it because it only takes a small amount of planning and it’s a great day to build relationships with kids.
Build healthy habits. In a time when one of the biggest health scares facing children is obesity, Crossroads offers summer programs that teach kids healthy life habits. Fun Fitness Days are planned throughout the summer for kids to play games outdoors that get them moving and their hearts pumping. Kids have lots of energy to burn — any chances to run and play are always a plus. Certified lifeguards provide free swimming lessons for kids at the local pool in early summer — water safety is important as we enter the summer months. We also offer Kids in the Kitchen mornings when kids can get messy and experiment in the kitchen. We provide recipes for easy, healthy snacks and meals they can make. Teaching kids to take care of the bodies God gave them in a fun and hands-on way will create healthy habits to build on for a lifetime. Preschoolers Wanna Have Fun One highlight that sets Crossroads Covenant Church in Loveland, Colorado, apart is our summer programs for preschoolers.
Preschool Day Camps — We offer morning day camps for 3- and 4-year-olds that are age-appropriate and geared toward learning that gets them ready for kindergarten as we plant seeds of faith. Preschool day camps such as Messy Art and Wiggly Bugs light up preschoolers’ eyes. Providing a morning filled with center-based activities, fun snacks, and the opportunity to play in a structured environment delights parents as well as children.
Park-and-Play Days — For the preschooler who has a hard time with separation, we plan Park-and-Play Days that offer a morning play date with other families at the church. Meet at your facility or plan a morning at the park, complete with parent-child art project, make-together snack, and music-and-movement time. Park-and-Play Days ease the anxieties that preschoolers face when separated from Mom or Dad for the first time.
The author Carmen Kamrath is a former associate editor for Children’s Ministry Magazine.