Keep kids coming back with these 8 great back-to-school ideas!
School’s back in session! And that means the pressure is on to grab kids’ attention—and keep it—for your ministry. Whether you’re planning an all-out fall kick-off party or you’re simply looking for meaningful ways to connect your kids for the coming year, we’ve got you covered.
Summer is all about the sizzle—hot weather, sunny skies, and fun. Don’t let all that excitement fizzle when kids return to school and your ministry. Bring all the delicious warmth of summer right back into your ministry this fall with warm friendships, sunny smiles, and fun that revolves around faith!
1. Wall Prints
To start off the new school year with a bang, consider letting kids make their mark on your ministry environment.
- a wall that kids can paint (cinderblock classroom walls work great), or if you don’t have an available wall, use a large piece of fabric you can hang up for the entire year
- paint appropriate for the surface you choose that washes off kids
- and paper plates.
Talk About: Form pairs or trios, and then read aloud Psalm 19:1-3. Ask kids to discuss these questions in their groups:
- Why do you think God went to the trouble of creating us and our world?
- What’s one way you could use your hands to honor God this week?
Do This: Let groups share their answers. Then have kids make a handprint by dipping their palm in a paper plate of paint and pressing it on the wall or fabric. Near the handprints, have kids write their first name, age, and a prayer about one way they want to put their hands to work for God or in your ministry this year. Pray together, thanking God for the kids in your ministry and asking his blessings on all the prayers represented.
Check in periodically throughout the year to see what God has done. As God answers their prayers, let kids put a paint thumbprint next to their handprint.
2. Living Stones
Your older elementary and preteen kids will get a thrill out of expressing themselves in stone…and your ministry gets a super cool “living” stone to remind kids that they’re a work of God.
- quick-set cement,
- a 5-gallon bucket,
- a measuring cup,
- wooden paint stirrers,
- an 11×17 gift box,
- a variety of decorations such as rhinestones, trinkets, plastic crosses, small toys, and more. (
- an outdoor, grassy area that can get messy,
- smocks for kids to wear,
- hand soap,
- and access to water.
Talk About: Form pairs and read aloud 1 Peter 2:4-5. Ask:
- What does it mean to be “built into a spiritual house”?
- How does coming to church help build you up?
- What ways can you help build up a friend this week?
Do This: Then help kids create a living stone to place in a garden or walkway at your church.
Read the cement package instructions. Mix the cement and enough water to the consistency of oatmeal in the 5-gallon bucket. Use the paint stirrer to mix the cement and water. Set the gift boxes on the ground and then pour the mixture into the box. Use a paint stirrer to smooth the surface. After about five minutes, have kids press their hands into the cement to make handprints. (If you have more than six kids, have them write their name and a saying in the cement instead.) Kids can decorate their stone by pressing the decorations into the cement next to their handprints or words.
Have kids wash their hands with soap and water as soon as they’re done. Let the cement dry for 48 hours before tearing off the gift box cardboard. The following week, have a small stone-setting ceremony as you place the stone on your church grounds.
3. Hold ’em High! Game
Challenge your kids with this muscle-busting contest that’ll also get them thinking about what it means to be a team.
- You’ll need a timer,
- a Bible,
- candy bars,
- and an activity area.
Talk About: Read aloud Exodus 17:11-16. Ask:
- What do you think it would be like to hold your hands up all day like Moses did?
- What do you think this Scripture tells us about Moses? about God?
Do This: Say: It doesn’t seem so hard to hold up your hands. Let’s try it! Challenge kids to hold their hands above their head for as long as they can. Let them know that the child who holds his hands up the longest will win a candy bar.
Time kids until only one child is left with his or her hands in the air. Award the candy bar. Then say: That was a lot harder than we thought, wasn’t it? Now let’s try it again, but this time we’ll do it a little differently. Choose one child to hold his or her arms up, and then have the other kids take turns helping hold up the child’s arms. Time kids for the same amount of time, and when time’s up, award everyone a candy bar.
Say: It was a lot easier to hold up your arms when you had support from others, wasn’t it? That’s a lot like our group-we’re all more successful and happy when we have support from our friends!
Close in prayer, thanking God for all the kids in your class. Ask God to hold each other up with prayer and support this year.
4. Sheet Art
This fun and crazy game will produce lots of laughs—and totally unique artwork to spruce up your ministry!
- An old white sheet,
- tennis balls,
- plenty of washable paint,
- and old t-shirts.
Do This: Ask kids to wear something they can get messy in or provide old T-shirts for them to wear over their clothes. Have kids surround the perimeter of the sheet and grab an edge. Soak three to five tennis balls in different colors of paint and, on the count of three, drop the balls in the center of the sheet. The kids’ goal is to maneuver their edge of the sheet to roll the balls toward someone else. They don’t want the balls to fall off or touch them. After two minutes, have kids place the sheet on the ground. Compare who has the most paint marks on their hands and clothes.
Talk About: Ask:
- What did you do to keep the balls away from you? How well did your strategy work?
- What was easy about this game? Difficult? How is this game like or unlike your life with school starting?
Read aloud Psalm 16:5-8. Ask:
- What does this Scripture tell us about how to approach the challenges and trials we’ll face in school this year?
Ask kids to place one hand on a line in the sheet. Close in prayer, asking God to be present in kids’ lives as they intersect—just like the lines made by the balls—and remind us of the wonderful things and new friends God has placed in our lives.
5. Back-to-School Backpacks
Give your kids an opportunity to serve their peers in need with this inspiring—and practical—idea.
- donated backpacks,
- pencils and pencil sharpeners,
- glue sticks,
- and erasers.
Do This: Have your kids stuff the backpacks with one of each supply and a Supply List. The list includes the following:
This backpack was packed just for you by the kids at (name of children’s ministry). We pray that you have a great school year and hope you’ll come visit our children’s ministry at (address).
- Pencils and pencil sharpener: Stay sharp this year through good friends and good choices.
- Erasers: Your mistakes are forgiven-and erased!-by God when you ask for his forgiveness.
- Crayons: God wants to color your life with his blessings!
- Glue Stick: Stick with hard work no matter what comes your way!
- Scissors: Cut out anything that hurts others!
- Notebook: Take note of all the good things you can be thankful for!
Pray with your kids for the backpack recipients. Then deliver the packs to shelters or other locations that assist at-risk kids in your area.
6. Live at the Improv
Your kids will love to document their experiences in your class, starting on their very first day.
- a home video recorder,
- a variety of costumes,
- and a stage area where kids can act out various biblical events and conduct peer interviews on camera. Your stage area can be as simple as a plain wall in your class.
Do This: This ongoing activity with your group is a great way to break the ice, keep kids engaged, and even to sum up your year together. Begin on your first day by challenging kids to work together to act out one event from your lesson…in five minutes or less. You can serve as the camera person and you can pick the scene, but have kids work together as fast as they can to get in costume and act out parts.
This is a great technique for days when you have extra time, and it’s a wonderful way to get your kids more connected through peer interviews and candid, time-restricted acting challenges. Eventually, kids may take over the camera and choosing their scenes. Save the scenes throughout the year, compile a video, and you’ll have a great memory-maker to give to your kids.
Lexington, North Carolina
7. Red Hot Happy Hearts Snack
This take-home, delicious snack reminds kids that each one of them is the apple of God’s eye (Psalm 17:8).
- a red apple per child,
- brown sugar,
- resealable bags,
- and a preprinted instruction card. (Download ours here.)
Do This: Before kids arrive, measure ¼ teaspoon cinnamon and 2 tablespoons brown sugar into a bag for each child. As you close your festivities, remind kids that they’re very special to God and they make him happy. Then give kids an apple, ingredient baggie, and instruction card. Ask them to make the apple with an adult’s help and use the questions on the card to interview someone they share the apple with. They’ll report back on what they learned the following week.
Red Hot Happy Heart Apple Instructions:
Make your apple with an adult’s help.
- Preheat your oven to 375 degrees.
- Remove the core of the apple, but leave the apple intact.
- Place the apple in a baking dish. Pour the cinnamon and brown sugar inside the apple. Add a teaspoon of butter on top if you’d like.
- Bake for 30 to 40 minutes. Let cool and then enjoy with someone you love!
- Take your apple and share it with a friend or family member. Interview the person using these questions.
- What’s one way you know you’re special to God?
- How has God blessed you?
- What are you most grateful for
- What’s one way you show God you’re thankful to him and love him?
- Come back next week and share what you learned about that person.
8. Handprint Cookies
These deliciously fun treats remind kids that God created them-and their new friends.
- a Bible
- premade sugar cookie dough,
- a rolling pin,
- wax paper,
- dinner knives,
- cookie sheets,
- a work surface,
- and access to an oven.
Do This: Remind kids that each one of them is special, unique, and a gift from God. Then have some fun!
Follow the cookie dough directions to preheat the oven. Then give kids each a piece of wax paper to trace their hands on, with their fingers spread wide. Have them cut out and place their wax paper handprints on the dough. Then using a dinner knife, cut out the dough handprints. Place the handprints on the cookie sheet and bake according to directions. While the cookies bake and then cool, read aloud Psalm 139:12-14. Have kids sit in a circle and discuss these questions.
- What do you think it means to be “fearfully and wonderfully made”?
- What’s wonderful about you?
- Name one thing that’s wonderful about the person on your left.
Let kids decorate both their handprints. Encourage them to enjoy one cookie, but to give the other to a special person who’s also a gift from God.
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