Amaze kids and families with these 9 dazzling summer ideas that’ll help them grow closer to God.
Love is to the heart what the summer is to the farmer’s year,” Billy Graham once said. “It brings to harvest all the loveliest flowers of the soul.” We couldn’t agree more — summertime is the perfect time to celebrate God’s love and extend his rays of beautiful sunshine into your children’s ministry.
Bring the kids in your ministry along on these late-
as we say farewell to the long days of summer and prepare for the ringing of school bells.
Good Samaritan Shadow Play
Age Level: 10 to 12
Materials: Two large white bedsheets sewn together, a clothesline, clothespins, and a lamp
Get kids involved in retelling the story of the Good Samaritan with this unique storytelling adventure.
Before class, hang the bedsheets from the clothesline. Place the lamp on the floor 10 feet behind the curtain.
Say, “God wants us to love our neighbors. There’s a story in the Bible about a man who wanted to know what Jesus meant by the word ‘neighbor.’ This man didn’t really want to love everybody. He was hoping that it’d be okay to show love to only a few close friends and family. Let’s see what Jesus said.”
Form two groups. Have one group go behind the curtain and the other group sit on the other side of the curtain as the audience. Assign a role in Luke 10:30-37 to each child behind the curtain. Turn off all the lights except the lamp. Have the kids pantomime their parts behind the sheet and in front of the lamp, while a strong reader reads the Scripture. Then have the groups switch roles.
Afterward, ask, “How do you think the person who was beat up felt? How do you think he felt when he saw the priest approaching him? How do you think he felt when the priest left without helping him?”
Say, “The Israelites didn’t like the Samaritans. If Israelites needed to cross Samaria to travel somewhere, they’d travel hundreds of miles out of their way just to avoid entering Samaria.”
Ask, “How do think the Israelite felt when the Samaritan stopped to help him? Why do you think Jesus said the Samaritan was a true neighbor in the story?”
Say, “The Samaritan showed love to a person who normally would have nothing to do with him. God helped the Samaritan love the Israelite. God helps us love others. What kinds of people are hard for you to love? How can you show love to them?”
Close in prayer, thanking God for loving us and asking him to help us love others.
Age Level: 6 to 12
Materials: Butcher paper, tape, tempera paints, and a vacant classroom wall
Here’s a creative idea that’ll help kids reflect on the biblical lessons you teach throughout the year.
Select a wall in your classroom that kids can paint after each lesson. You may choose to cover the wall with butcher paper, or let kids paint the wall itself after each class session. Place stored tempera paints nearby.
After each lesson, invite kids to spend five minutes finger painting things they remember about the lesson on one section of the wall. Write the Scripture or story title above the group of paintings. You can revisit the wall during any lesson or teaching time to remind kids of the lesson and event.
Once the wall is covered or the year is completed, simply repaint the wall or tear down the butcher paper.
Sunday Morning Sam’s Sampler
Have you ever purchased a bushel basket of those yummy little cream puffs featured in the Sam’s Club frozen food aisle? If you’re at all like me, your decision to buy started with the friendly Sam’s sampler.
“Have you tried our cream puffs?” the sampler asks, knowing it’ll only take one experience before you’re hooked.
Before the taste of the sweet cream leaves your tongue, you find yourself filling your basket, rationalizing all the different ways you’ll be able to use these delicacies. Sam’s samplers grab your attention, whet your appetite, and convince you to explore further.
What if children’s ministries capitalized on this concept? Imagine someone standing behind a little cart in the foyer or hallway in your kids’ department, greeting and capturing kids’ attention with something that activates the senses. Someone who whets the appetite for learning and motivates kids to explore further?
“Would you like to try some roasted locusts and honey?” tempts the Sunday morning Sam’s sampler. “We’re studying John the Baptist this morning, and this is what he ate.”
Boys and girls sample the offer as others gather in disbelief. And the kids proceed to class with soaring expectations.
By following a curriculum’s scope and sequence, all sorts of multisensory experiences can be featured at a Sunday morning sampler station. And you don’t have to always offer food — just offer something that activates the senses. Here are ideas to get started:
• Doctor Luke writes about Jesus. Take kids’ blood pressure and temperature.
• Jesus said, “I am the light of the world.” Have kids light and blow out candles.
• Jesus said, “I am the bread of life.” Serve fresh bread that’s baked at church for the aroma.
• Jesus casts Legion’s demons into pigs. Serve pork rinds.
• Jesus tells a kingdom story about seeds. Serve a variety of seeds, such as sunflower and pumpkin.
• Jesus tells a kingdom story about yeast. Provide bread dough in various stages of rising.
• Jesus feeds his disciples breakfast. Serve fried fish fillets.
• Jesus turns water into wine. Provide a taste test of grape juice watered down in stages.
• Mary Magdalene brings spices to Jesus’ tomb. Grind cinnamon, black pepper, nutmeg, or coriander in a hand mill.
• Soldiers cast lots for Jesus’ clothes. Have kids draw straws and roll dice.
With the help of a Sunday morning sampler, your children’s ministry can build anticipation for learning in a fun and truly memorable way. Your kids will get in the habit of “trying” — and “buying” — too.
Grand Rapids, Michigan
Age Level: 6 to 12
Materials: Red yarn and various props
Using simple red yarn and your imagination, take kids on an exciting journey through the desert with the Israelites.
Before class, set up various learning stations in different rooms or different sections of your room that represent what the Israelites may’ve experienced as they journeyed through the desert. Then place red yarn from the starting point of the journey to the ending point, creating a pathway for kids to follow. Wind the yarn around obstacles such as tables, overturned chairs, and partitions so the pathway meanders and is a little mysterious to kids.
Here’s how we designed the learning stations.
• Daily Life-The yarn first took kids into a tent where an adult discussed daily life in the desert.
• Daily Food-Kids were led into the “quail room” where they learned about desert birds and constructed simple paper gliders.
• Mount Sinai-A third room held a tripod covered by a tablecloth to represent Mount Sinai. An adult talked about the yellow ribbon that kept children back from Mount Sinai as representative of God’s commandment not to touch the mountain or go near it.
• Manna-A fourth room held a quart jar filled with oyster crackers covered in melted white almond bark to represent manna.
• Rock of Horeb-The fifth room had a stack of chairs barring the kids at the entrance. This was the rock of Horeb where the children of Israel begged for water. Moses struck the rock with his rod. Behind these chairs were several pitchers of ice water and plenty of paper cups.
In each “room” we had an adult leader, an activity or craft, and discussion questions. The red yarn led kids back to our central classroom where we celebrated what we’d learned and praised God.
Splish, Splish, Splash!
Age Level: 4 to 9
Materials: Large plastic cup, plastic bucket, and water
Kids love to play this wet variation of Duck, Duck, Goose! in the hot summer months.
Have kids wear clothing that can get wet, and plan to do this activity outdoors.
Fill a large bucket with water. Have kids sit in a circle and appoint one child to be “It.” It fills the cup with water from the bucket and then walks around the outside of the circle saying, “Splish, splish, splish” as he or she taps each child on the head. Then It chooses a child, says “Splash!” and pours the water on that child’s head.
A chase ensues as the child chosen tries to catch It. Whichever child reaches the empty spot in the circle first sits, and the other child becomes It.
Here are two great bulletin board ideas you can use this summer to spice up your children’s ministry.
• All We Need Is You!-To get potential volunteers’ attention, place a Hawaiian shirt, a pair of shorts, a lei, and a pair of flip flops on the bulletin board with a sign that says “All We Need Is You!” Alternatively, you could place several pairs of flip-flops on the board with the words “We could use you to fill these for our summer children’s ministry.”
• Hear’s What We’re Learning-Place three large artificial flowers across the board. In the center of the flowers, staple a small felt “packet” that holds a small recording device (available at craft stores). Record the memory verse, lesson, Bible point, or other information your programs are focused on.
Label each flower for your children’s programs-such as Sunday school, children’s church, and the midweek program. Place a “press here” sticker on the felt packet where the recording device is. Anyone who sees the display can press the button and hear what’s new in each program. Record new information each week so the board stays current and keeps people coming back to find out what’s happening in your children’s ministry.
Smelly Feet and All
Age Level: 10 to 12
Materials: Two aluminum casserole pans filled with water, two towels, two bars of soap, two chairs, masking tape, and an activity area
Give preteens a chance to experience servanthood firsthand with this activity.
Place two chairs spaced 10 feet apart at the far end of the activity area. Place an aluminum pan filled with water, soap, and a towel on the floor in front of each chair. On the opposite side of the activity area, mark a starting line on the floor using masking tape. Form two teams and have the teams line up behind the starting mark facing the chairs.
Read aloud John 13:1, 3-5. Say, “We’re going to do what Jesus did.” Tell kids they’ll wash one another’s feet, but they’ll all get to experience what it’s like to have their feet washed. Remind them to wash with care — as Jesus would.
On “go,” the first preteen of each team runs to the chair, sits, and takes off his or her socks and shoes. The second preteens in line run to the aluminum pan and wash and dry the first people’s feet. When done, the first person moves aside, puts his or her socks and shoes back on, and runs to the back of the line. The preteen who just did the feet-washing now sits in the chair, while the next person in line washes his or her feet. The kids who were first in line wash the feet of the last kids in line.
Once everyone has had a chance to experience both, ask, “How did it feel to wash someone else’s feet? How did it feel to have your feet washed?”
Say, “Jesus washed his disciples’ feet to show his love for them. And long ago, people had very dirty feet-they walked everywhere in sandals.”
Read aloud John 13:13-15. Say, “God wants us to love one another-smelly feet and all!”
Bergenfield, New Jersey
Age Level: 6 to 12
Materials: Butcher paper, markers, masking tape, and Post-It notes
Chart the course of your Sunday school year using a timeline. Put up a large piece of butcher paper at the beginning of the year, and mark off a few defining events such as the first day, holidays, and spring break. At the end of each month, give children each two sticky notes and ask them to write two ways they’ve grown closer to Jesus that month. One at a time, each child can place his or her notes on the timeline and explain their significance. At the end of the exercise, thank God for the kids and the way he’s worked in their lives to help them grow.
Misty Anne Winzenried
Late Summer Tea Party
Delight the little girls in your children’s ministry with an old-fashioned tea party especially for them. Use these tips to make your afternoon or evening tea party a wonderful success.
• Invited guests-Keep this 90-minute party special for little girls. Invite them to bring their favorite doll as a guest along with Mom or Dad.
• Decorations-Make your church fellowship hall festive with lace tablecloths, flowers, and colorful streamers. Add a pretty touch by bunching fine netting around the lace-covered tabletops and adding long strings of beads and small silk flowers in different colors. If you have tables with adjustable legs, lower them to the right height for children, and borrow chairs from the preschool department. Decorate tables with old teapots filled with flowers for centerpieces.
• Dress Up-Have girls make flower wreaths for their hair to take home. For wreath instructions, go to Web Extras at www.cmmag.com. Provide plenty of dress-up clothes, dressy shoes, and old jewelry. Little girls love feather boas and glitzy outfits. Have the clothing and jewelry spill out of old trunks and treasure chests. Supply enough dress-up clothes in many sizes to fit the older or larger girls. Provide full-length mirrors to add to the fun of dressing up.
• Photo Op-Parents will thank you for providing photos of the party. Set up a special photography area with an attractive background-for example, clothes or hats draped over a screen. Photograph each girl and her doll after she’s chosen her favorite dress-up outfit. Hint: Take two photos-a close-up and a distance shot that includes the background. After the party, mount the photos on heavy paper suitable for framing. Crop the close-up photo and attach it to the corner of the distance shot. Have the photos ready for girls to pick up at church a week or two after the party.
• Now Serving-Serve everyone tea and cookies against the soft background of classical music. Use fancy plates-glass hostess plates and cups are a good choice. Serve a special, aromatic blend of tea; offer decaffeinated tea as an alternative. Serve the tea lukewarm with two “lumps” of sugar (sugar cubes). Frothy pink punch goes great with tea, and most little girls will like to try both. Serve cookies and mini muffins.
• Pretty Please-Instruct the girls in proper etiquette for an old-fashioned tea party. Hold your spoon straight up and down to stir the sugar into your tea, so it doesn’t hit against the sides of the cup. Unfold your napkin and make it into a triangle. Place the napkin in your lap with the point of the triangle over your knees. Use only the folded-over portion to wipe your mouth-that way it doesn’t touch your clothes and keeps you clean. Use good table manners-no reaching, gossiping, or getting angry.
• Saving Money-Expenses for your tea party can be minimal if you borrow materials for decorations such as tablecloths, candles, and teapots. If your budget is small, ask ladies to make cookies and mini muffins. Provide film, and ask a volunteer to be the photographer.