Host this summer children’s ministry event to support a great cause and remind kids and families about the joy that comes from giving.
The heart’s cry of this emerging generation is for the church to offer opportunities that address social injustice with ways children can make a difference in their communities and world. Celebrities and recent TV shows have heightened awareness of the issues and challenged people to make a difference by helping social causes and individuals. Today’s families are looking for ways to get involved too, so host this summer event at your church and help families support a worthy cause while connecting with other families in your community and church. And change the world while you’re at it!
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CHOOSE A CAUSE
Before you start planning details for your event, choose a social cause that families will easily embrace, either locally or globally. For example, you could help a local homeless shelter, hospice center, or food bank. Or choose a global cause such as the HIV/AIDS crisis in Africa, peace efforts in Darfur, or safe water wells in Vietnam. Selecting a cause to support will lend purpose and meaning to your event and make it easier to solicit donations from area businesses that are often reluctant to help churches but eager to donate goods or services for an event that helps a cause.
TEAM WITH OTHERS
You’ll want to keep your costs down as much as possible so the cause you’re supporting can receive the maximum monetary gift possible. Solicit local businesses to financially support the event and donate items such as food, decorations, advertising, prizes, giant inflatables, or entertainment. Acknowledge businesses and organizations that donate by including their names on posters, tickets, and newspaper or radio advertising.
Police or fire departments, the military, children’s hospitals, and other civic groups are often willing to come out with their own displays and activities for community events. You may want to include other churches or nonprofit groups to help support the event by hosting games or other concessions.
TICKET FOR ATTENDANCE
Promote your event as a ticketed one — it increases the value people place on the event, and it helps you promote it as an exclusive activity. Communicate that all ticket sale monies will be donated toward your cause. Local businesses or church members may want to sponsor or purchase tickets in bulk to distribute at their workplaces, neighborhoods, day care centers, and local grocery store counters.
Tickets can help you collect people’s contact information as well on the day of the event. On the reverse side of the ticket, have people write their contact information, and then attendees can turn their tickets in for a chance at door prize drawings and giveaways. Input contact information to your database to follow up with attendees, invite families to other church events, or simply send thank you notes for attending. Begin With a Splash
Summer is the perfect time to offer water-related activities for kids of all ages. Open your event with these splashy ideas to keep families cool as you kick off your festivities. (Or check out these wet-and-wild games!)
1. FISH OR SPLASH
Fill a large inflatable pool with water and plastic fish, ducks, or other floating items. Use a permanent marker to tag the bottom of several items with a dot prior to placing them in the water. Kids can use nets to scoop floating items out of the pool to determine if they get a small prize. If they get an item without a mark, they get “splashed” with a small squirt bottle. Avoid squirting kids in the face, and for young children, squirt the parent instead!
2. FISHING DERBY
There’s nothing like real fish to grab kids’ attention. Contact a local sporting goods store, club, or men’s group that’s willing to stock and set up a portable pond to teach kids how to bait, catch, and then release their fish back into the pond.
3. WATER BALLOON TARGETS
Create a target board using plywood and long screws, drilling the screws in from behind the board so that the pointed end comes through the board on the front side. Place buckets of pre-filled water balloons at the throw line, and place empty buckets at the bottom of the board to catch water. Contestants each choose a bucket to fill and toss the water balloons at the board, racing to fill their buckets before their opponents. The winners have the most water in their buckets after all the balloons for the round have been tossed.
4. SPRINKLER FUN
It’s easy, fun, and timeless. Set up sprinklers in a grassy, enclosed area and let the kids run through the water and play. Instruct kids to move in and out of the spray while music plays. When the music stops, they must freeze for 10 seconds before continuing play.
5. THE MAIN EVENT: BEACH BLANKET MOVIE
Focus the second half of your event on communicating the cause you’re supporting, providing an opportunity for families to respond, and then celebrating with a relaxing, family-oriented entertainment time.
As families gather on beach blankets and lawn chairs, distribute information about your cause or show a short promotional video clip. Share a brief story or firsthand testimony about how the organization is helping people in need. Invite families to further support the cause through a donation you’ll collect as people exit for the evening. Use this time to thank everyone for coming and for supporting your sponsored cause. Then let the fun begin!
Set up a movie screen outdoors-use a large white sheet, a blank wall, or a portable screen. (Inflatable screens are available at walmart.com or buyinflatables.com.) You’ll also need a projector, DVD player, and sound system to show a movie at dusk.
Families can sit on blankets and chairs to watch a classic family movie outdoors such as Toy Story, The Sandlot, Chitty Chitty Bang Bang, The Sound of Music, or The Parent Trap. During the movie, open up a concession stand and offer beverages, popcorn, and prepackaged foods such as chips or candy. Avoid the need to get a permit for selling food by asking for donations rather than set selling prices. If the food you’re offering is donated by a local business, post signs thanking the businesses and saying that all proceeds from the donation go toward the charity.
6. WRAPPING UP WELL
At the end of your event, thank everyone for coming out to support your cause. Distribute fliers for upcoming events, service times, or your children’s ministry programs. Send thank you notes to the sponsors and mention them by name in your church bulletin, newsletter, or on your Web site. For extra impact, include photos of the event inside the thank you cards. Write a letter to enclose with the check to the foundation or charity you’re supporting, thanking them for allowing you to partner with them in raising funds.
Finally, don’t forget to follow up on those tickets. Touch base with event attendees within two weeks to once again thank them for participating, and include other ways they can get involved at your church with future outreach endeavors. Count your success not in numbers, but in how effective you were at communicating awareness about your cause. Take good notes, and make even bigger plans for next summer’s event.
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A WORD ABOUT CHOOSING A CAUSE
There are often an overwhelming number of good causes to support, both locally and internationally. The key to choosing the right cause to support simply involves answering a few questions.
• Do you want to choose a cause that supports kids? teens? single moms? the homeless?
• Do you wish to focus your attention on your local community? your state? an area of immediate need in the United States? another country?
• Are you wanting to support a cause that’s strictly humanitarian? an organization focused on research?
• Do you want the cause to foundationally support Christian principles?
Once you’ve answered these questions, research to find a nonprofit organization that fits your criteria. Contact the organization you choose and tell them about your event. Request materials to distribute for awareness and ask if they can send a representative to speak on the night of the event. This is a good time to also get permission to raise funds on their behalf and inquire about any questions or specific needs they may want you to focus on as you communicate information about the cause.
INTERNATIONAL CHILDREN’S CAUSES
Here are a few organizations that specifically serve the needs of children around the world.
• Smile Train Smile Train’s vision is to ensure every child born with a cleft lip and palate can lead a full and productive life. The organization provides life-changing surgeries to children in 85+ developing countries. (smiletrain.org)
• Champions Foundation Focuses on faith, hope, compassion and educational initiatives in the local, national, and international community. Their efforts include Forever Homes in South Africa for children orphaned by AIDS, assistance for hurricane Katrina victims, and educational efforts in the Philippines. (championsfoundation.com)
• Operation Kid-to-Kid Partners with nondenominational Christian organizations to create hands-on service projects for kids in North America. These meaningful service projects mobilize children in serving other children around the world. (groupcares.org/ok2k/)
• Living Water International Shares God’s love by helping communities in desperate need of clean water by empowering local communities to implement solutions in their own countries. (water.cc)
• Hope 4 Kids International Brings hope, health, dignity, joy, and love to children in Uganda, Peru, Romania, Russia, and Mexico through sponsorship programs, medical relief, education, and practical provisions. (hope4kidsinternational.org)
• Grassroot Soccer An educational and life-skills program that provides African youth with the knowledge and support to live HIV-free. (grassrootsoccer.org)
• One U2’s Bono is the co-founder of this effort to end global poverty. The organization’s Web site has links to lots of partner organizations that support their efforts. (one.org)