Want summer programs that sizzle instead of fizzle?
Summer will be here before you know it, and for many ministries, it can be a tough time. For some reason, attendance seems to go down, and it can be a struggle at times. But it can be a time for growth in attendance, in volunteers, and even for yourself professionally. You just need some kids’ ministry inspiration…KidMin ‘speration!
I’m excited to share an interview with Kathie Phillips, director of children’s ministry at Central Presbyterian Church in Baltimore, Maryland. If you don’t follow her posts over at kidminspiration.com, you might want to go and bookmark it now. It was named one of the top 100 children’s ministry blogs and if full of great reading! She’s an expert in all things kidmin and knows how to make the most out of summer. She graciously gave us some of her time, and I wanted to share our interview with you.
DJ: Can you tell us more about yourself and your ministry?
KP: Each week approximately 150 children, birth – 5th Grade, attend our weekend programming. I’m excited because of all that God is doing in the ministry and even more excited to serve alongside my husband Lance and our two teenagers, Daniel and Kennedy.
DJ: Summer can be a difficult time for some ministries, with summer sports and vacations hurting guest and volunteer numbers. What do you do to keep your ministry going strong during those summer months? Do you make any changes to your ministry?
KP: We realize that attendance fluctuates during the summer months, particularly in the month of August. As a result, we structure our programming accordingly.
Our summer programming usually kicks off on Father’s Day weekend and is scaled back some during the summer months because we give our school-year volunteers the summers off. Our classrooms are staffed by parents, teens and other members of our congregation, some who prefer to serve during the summer months. The curriculum that we’ve chosen in the past has been extremely teacher-friendly and adaptable to be taught by someone coming in the morning-of. We also do a little more prep work since our volunteers usually change weekly and we want to make their morning with us a smooth as possible.
We are more likely to combine our classrooms based on attendance and the number of volunteers signed up. Last summer, we suspended programming for our elementary and preteen ministries during the month of August so that families could worship together.
Our children are promoted to new classrooms in early September so volunteer training and advertising for new classrooms are heavily promoted, particularly in the month of August.
While programming for our ministry is scaled back during the summer months, we still keep our essentials, safety and quality teaching, a priority. We never compromise on these things.
DJ: What summer events have you done where and have you seen success?
KP: Our biggest summer event is our annual Summer Bible Camp. It has grown to over 300 children and 250 volunteers. We draw children not only from within our church body but also from other churches and neighborhoods in our community. We’ve found that many of our children make a profession of faith during our Summer Bible Camp, so that makes it extremely worthwhile each year.
DJ: VBS (or Summer Bible Camp) is always a big deal. What tips and tricks do you have for pulling off a successful VBS/Summer Camp? What do you do before to promote it and after to keep kids coming back?
KP: We take time at the end of each Summer Bible Camp to do a thorough evaluation while things are still fresh in our minds. The ideas that stem from our evaluation meeting are extremely helpful in planning for the upcoming year.
We begin formulating our team and planning months in advance so that everyone has adequate time to get ready. We’re also able to rewrite scripts, alter our set design and select crafts well in advance.
Promotion is usually handled through our website, in-church announcements and the church bulletin. However, our biggest promotion is done by word of mouth from our church members and previous attenders.
We try to have a very seeker-friendly sermon series following our Summer Bible Camp so that unchurched families would consider attending after camp has concluded. Last year, we provided ticket books for elementary kids to redeem for a weekly giveaway that corresponded with our sermon series. That went over well.
DJ: What can children’s ministers do during the summer to recharge?
KP: I think summer is a good time to refresh your soul. Summers are busy with activities, programming and planning for the fall kick-off, so taking some time to nourish your own soul is important. I would recommend any type of reading material that refreshes you personally.
I want to thank the wonderful Kathie Phillips for sharing her thoughts with us today. Remember to check out her website, and follow her through social media:
How does your ministry change during the summer? What do you do to recharge? Let us know in the comment section below!