Splash Into a Spectacular Summer

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When you unveil your summer blueprint this year, how will kids
respond? “Ho-hum”? Or “hip-hip-hooray”? If it’s ho-hum, it’s time
to go back to the drawing board.

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You can stage a spectacular summer for your kids and community
if you make a deep investment in brainstorming-ahead of time. Don’t
let the mentality “we’ve always done it this way” stifle fresh
ideas. Use these thoughtful steps to create a sizzling summer
that’ll have a lasting impact on kids.

1. Identify your purpose. Determine what you
want to accomplish during the summer. Is it outreach and
evangelism? pre-evangelism? nurture? recreation, education, or
entertainment? Is your goal fellowship or just providing a fun,
safe environment for kids? Summer is an excellent time to work on
assimilating new kids into your group.

2. Focus your efforts. Have a flagship program
around which you’ll build your summer programming. You may choose
to build around your VBS outreach, backyard Bible clubs, or camping
programs. The energy invested in doing one thing well will spread
into other programs. You may also find that the enthusiasm
generated by your flagship program will create excitement for your
other summer events.

3. Choose a theme for the summer. It’s
surprising how few churches take advantage of this strategic idea.
In our church, we generally have a fall kickoff event in September
that sets the tone for the year. We may have a Western Roundup
kickoff and then plan a Wild West theme for the summer. Props,
costumes, and promotional material purchased for the fall event can
be recycled for use in the summer. (This is a real budget
lifesaver.)

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People readily identify your summer programs visually if you use
this hitchhiking method. Here are some summer themes we’ve seen
used successfully: Circus, Summer Salts, Wild West, Hot Air
Ballooning, Island Adventure, Water Works, Fun in the Son, Sizzling
Summer, Kids’ Daze, Olympics, Space, Knights, and Kings’ Kids.

4. Chart a course. Consider the range of
activities that’ll match your stated purpose and tie into your
theme. Brainstorm summer activities in many areas, such as parent
and child events, service projects, just-for-fun activities,
outreach events, Bible enrichment, latchkey programs, summer
reading contests, and summer school tutoring.

Once a purpose, theme, and direction are established, it’s
surprising how quickly ideas will pop. One technique you can use
with a group or just as an individual is to think of all the things
regarding a theme. Be free to get wild-after all, this is
brainstorming. (See the “ABCs of Brainstorming” box.)

Here’s how it works. Say you’ve determined your summer theme to
be Wild West. What are things you associate with the West and
cowboys?

Take just a moment to jot ideas down. Here’s a partial list we
came up with: jail, wanted posters, branding, roping, horseshoes,
cowboys, cowgirls, saddles, horses, cows, a marshall, deputies,
trail rides, chuck wagons, badges, cactus, and rodeos.

Applying these ideas to our program was fun. Our teachers became
deputies. Nametags were cut into badge shapes. We set up a table at
our local library and let the neighborhood children make paper
cowboy hats and vests. They then colored a wanted poster that let
parents know we “wanted” their kids for vacation Bible school. We
sponsored a Reading Rodeo library contest and a bicycle rodeo. And
we provided pony rides as an attendance incentive.

After you’ve made your brainstorming list, refer to it often.
Keep this original “hot sheet” with all the scratches, doodles, and
comments. We’ve been surprised how often what seems like a silly or
far-out idea becomes an integral part of the summer fun.

Mark von Ehrenkrook is a children’s pastor in
Washington.

THE ABCs OF BRAINSTORMING

Children’s workers may be among the most creative group of
people in the church today. Here’s how to harness that creative
power.

When beginning to plan your summer program, have a short
brainstorming session with your volunteer staff. Write the
following ABCs on a chalkboard and appoint someone to write all the
ideas the group mentions. After 10 or 15 minutes, stop the session
and analyze the suggestions. You’ll be amazed at the results if you
remember the ABCs:

Accept all ideas. Go wild. Free associations
make for a fun and productive brainstorming session. Often the
wilder the idea, the greater number of ideas will “hitchhike” on
the idea to generate more ideas. As a result of brainstorming, our
Space summer featured a planetarium with toy telescopes and
spacesuits. We made a large Lunar Landing Module for kids to
explore.

Be creative. Thinking is free. Indulge.
Splurge. Let one idea foster another. Entertain every idea. In our
Glory Gulch vacation Bible school, the idea of an old-fashioned oil
well became a windmill water pump. The windmill eventually became a
13-foot prop in our western town that actually pumped water and was
the visual for our children’s offering contest.

Cease criticism. During the brainstorming
session, the rule is no critiquing of ideas-no matter how weird or
impossible. The whole idea of brainstorming is to form enough
raindrops of ideas so that puddles of programs can emerge. In our
Daze of the Dinosaurs, someone suggested setting up a creation
museum. At first blush, this seemed totally undoable. Later we put
feet to the idea and came up with a first-rate museum-complete with
fossils, bones, and dinosaur models. Hundreds of people visited the
museum, and it generated enthusiasm for our whole summer
program.

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