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Summer (Not) Off

Fend off the summer attendance slump by intentionally connecting families to your ministry.

It's almost here -- that glorious season when the sun's warmth descends like a heavy blanket, the heat waves ripple the air, and the only thing audible is the hum of the air conditioner.

But wait a just minute...If the only sound in your ministry is the occasional whir of air conditioners kicking on, you're missing the excited buzz of connecting families -- and strengthening their ties to your ministry and church.

Summer attendance at most churches inevitably wanes. Families vacation and enjoy the warm weather. Kids play summer sports, go to camp, and savor a break from school. Churches feel the squeeze when pews sit empty and kids don't show up.

Some churches counteract summer downtime with drastic measures. One California church went to a monthly Sunday service and suspended all ministries until fall. Others cope by creating more programs in the hope of drawing kids and families to maintain attendance.

Ministry experts conclude that summer is a high-risk time for churched families because they're busy with seasonal activities and the temptation to skip church is strong. Spotty attendance may even remind families of what they're "missing" outside of church and eventually result in them skipping church  altogether.

Even if your summer attendance is down, you can create opportunities to keep families tied closely to your church. Offer family-specific experiences that intentionally draw families back to your church and ministry. Here are four proven ideas from children's ministers across the country.

1 AMEN Program
We wanted to give families a reason to keep coming back to our small church over the summer, so we asked people to share their hobbies with kids from our children's ministry and their families. We called it the AMEN Program: Action Ministry with Educational Networking. The primary goal of the program was to increase interaction between older and younger members of our church and families. The AMEN sessions lasted one hour weekly for four weeks.

We asked people to describe their special crafts or skills, and then we contacted people such as woodworkers, quilters, candle makers, choir and band members, bakers, and others to create options for kids and their families. Families got a list of available hobbies and ranked their top three choices. Some wanted to spend two weeks on one hobby and two on another hobby. We asked the hobby leaders to plan their activities each week. The mixed-age groups worked well because families could help each other and older kids helped younger ones with more complex tasks.

Each week, the hobby groups got a Bible passage and prayer related to the project, and leaders got to talk about their faith in relation to the hobby. At the end of the four weeks, we showed off our finished projects and enjoyed a celebration. AMEN!

Sally Kruse
Tipton, Iowa


2 Family Follies
Our children's ministry has had great success sponsoring a Family Follies show during the summer as a way to keep families connected. We choose an evening in the summer when families can come together to perform or just watch the show. The show is basically a variety show, full of music, comedy skits, crowdbreakers, and audience participation bits. We publicize the event early in the summer and ask families to sign up with their "acts." (We provide ideas and skits for families who want to participate but don't have an idea.) Then we give families access to our ministry facility to practice, make props, and plan their part of the show for two weeks prior to the event. We always have a huge turnout with lots of families in the show and lots who just love to come watch. It's a blast -- and a great way to build relationships between families through laughter.

Melissa Guillebeau
Dacula, Georgia


3 Summer Reading Club
One of our most popular programs for families over the summer has been our Summer Reading Program. We open our church library and encourage families to choose one book every two weeks to read together. (If your church library isn't well-stocked, simply have families check out a book at the local library.) At our bimonthly meetings, families share what they read and learned and whether they'd give it a thumbs up or thumbs down. The other families ask questions about the book, and our program leaders inject questions related to faith. During the second half of each meeting, we play games and share snacks related to our book topics. This reading club has consistently drawn families back to our church throughout the summer -- and it gives them a great reason to spend time together outside of church, too.

Deb Vos
Schererville, Indiana


4 VBS Reunion
We get extra mileage out of our VBS program each year by hosting a late-summer VBS Reunion. We intentionally plan our initial VBS early in the summer so kids and families are excited to return for a post-VBS party and see all the friends they made again. For the reunion, we invite kids, parents, ministry teachers, and all our VBS volunteers for an evening of fun. We ask them to wear their VBS T-shirts. We reuse the VBS decorations to create a festive feel, play VBS music and videos, sing songs, play the games, use any leftover craft supplies, and enjoy snacks. Kids get to reconnect with their VBS friends, parents get to experience the fun their kids had, and we get the opportunity to strengthen families' ties to our ministry.

Stephanie Martin
Lakewood, Colorado

For even more family fun event ideas you can use this summer, go to www.childrensministry.com/family.

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