School bells are ringing! Tap into kids’ natural excitement, and give them practical faith activities to transform everyday life into higher learning.
The air is punctuated by kids’ anticipation of the coming school year. Many are thrilled and excited to join new classes and make new friends, while others may face the year with anxiety.
You too may feel a quiver in your stomach as you try to think of great new ways to get to know the children in your Sunday school class, or as you wonder how fruitful the year will be.
Step into school with these 11 excellent activities for the new school year. You’ll find ideas, activities, and tips in this special back-to-school section.
1. Lifelong Bookmarks
Start the school year with this new way to build community in your congregation. Have kids create bookmarks using 2×6-inch pieces of cardstock. Attach one child’s photograph and write the child’s first name on one side of each bookmark. Have kids each decorate their bookmarks and write the following poem on the side opposite their photo:
Pray for me in what I’ve sown. Pray for me until I’m grown.
In what I do, in what I say, Please pray for me every day.
Laminate the bookmarks so they’ll last for years.
Ask your congregation members to become a lifelong prayer sponsor of a child in your ministry by choosing a bookmark. Instruct them to keep the bookmark in a Bible or devotion book and to pray for the child they’ve chosen every day until the child reaches adulthood. This is a great way to support the children in your ministry and keep them in the hearts and minds of your congregation.
2. Lion Locker Magnets
Starting the school year can be scary for kids, but you can help them learn to rely on God for strength and confidence by having them make reminders that God protected Daniel in the lion’s den.
- fine-tipped permanent markers,
- magnets, and
- a Bible.
Have kids cut out a sun-shaped piece of yellow or tan felt for the lion’s mane. Then have them cut out a face shape from a lighter-colored piece of felt. Glue the face shape onto the center of the mane and allow to dry. Then have kids draw eyes, a nose, mouth, and whiskers on the face shape. Finish the lions by gluing magnets to the back of the felt.
Kids can use their magnets inside their lockers at school or as refrigerator magnets at home.
3. Top 10 Field Trip Destinations
Field trips are a wonderful way to give kids a firsthand view of how God works in our everyday lives. Consider these top 10 choices for awesome field trip destinations the kids in your church will love.
- Farm: Learn about the amazing creatures God created and how we care for them.
- Police Station: Help kids appreciate the work police do in our neighborhoods to keep us safe.
- School for the Deaf or Blind: This gives kids a chance to see how different (and how alike) their learning is. It also helps demystify people with differences.
- Veterinary Clinic: Find out what it takes to care for pets.
- Fire Station: Give kids the chance to see behind the scenes; a visit they’ll never forget. Meet real-life heroes and hear fire-prevention techniques.
- Newspaper Office: Get the word out! Communication is important, and it’s one of the most amazing gifts God gave us. Kids can see how stories are selected, researched, and reported.
- Courtroom: How do we judge others’ crimes? Kids can see the seriousness and impact that crime, disputes, and justice have in our society.
- Local Park or Nature Center: God’s creativity is everywhere. Take a tour to acknowledge God’s beautiful handiwork.
- Animal Shelter: See how homeless animals live. This is a great opportunity to examine our responsibility to animals.
- Cemetery: What better opportunity to talk about God’s amazing gift of everlasting life? Cemeteries are quiet places, but they’re also a reminder to celebrate God’s presence.
4. Noah’s Ark Pencil Toppers
- small wooden animal-shaped cutouts,
- tempera paint,
- chenille craft wires,
- fine-tipped markers,
- tiny wiggle eyes,
- and new pencils.
Have kids decorate two matching wooden cutouts using tempera paint. They can attach wiggle eyes with glue. Have kids glue their two decorated wooden animals together at the feet so they appear to stand side by side. Allow the glue to dry.
Have kids coil chenille craft wire around the pencil, leaving a ¹/2-inch section at the eraser. Glue the ¹/2-inch section of wire to the backs of the wooden animals, and allow the glue to dry.
Read aloud Genesis 7. Have kids take their pencils to school and share the story of Noah and the great Flood with classmates.
5. Labor Day Sunday
A couple of weeks prior to Labor Day, ask everyone—kids and adults—to wear the clothing they’d normally wear to work or school on the previous Sunday.
Encourage conversations about careers and education by hanging posters with question prompts such as, “What’s your career? What school do you attend? What do you want to do when you grow up? How do you like your job? How does God use you in your job or at school?”
Coordinate with your senior pastor to incorporate lessons about being a laborer for God in the sermon and in the children’s message. After church, have your children’s ministry sponsor a special greeting and snack time with the Labor Day Sunday theme.
Rising Sun, Maryland
6. Do-It-Yourself Choice Maker
Here’s a great way to help young children, or kids with special needs, choose self-directed activities.
- a large poster board,
- clear self-adhesive vinyl covering,
- self-adhesive Velcro strips,
- a large resealable plastic bag,
- and scissors.
Cut 8×8-inch pieces of cardstock. On each piece of cardstock, use markers to draw a simple drawing of an activity kids can choose, such as puppets, beanbag toss, music, blocks, crafts, reading, or puzzles. Cover the cards with clear, self-adhesive vinyl covering. Place 1-inch self-adhesive Velcro strips 10 inches apart on the poster board in rows. Place the corresponding 1-inch self-adhesive Velcro strips in the center back of each activity card. Attach the cards to the poster board.
Give kids the option of choosing one or two of the activities. You can use the large resealable plastic bag to store choices that aren’t available on certain days.
North Royalton, Ohio
7. Ministry Teams for Kids
Tap into kids’ spiritual gifts and interests by setting up kid ministry teams.
Begin by creating a master list of teams kids can serve on, such as song leaders, Bible verse, drama, audiovisual, prayer leaders, read-aloud, welcoming, leading song actions, postcard mailing, supplies, and more.
Mail the list home to kids so they and their parents can go through the teams and their responsibilities together. Allow kids to sign up for more than one team if they wish.
8. Time Capsule
Create time capsules for children to mark their growth through the coming year. Have kids each bring an aluminum cookie or popcorn tin from home. Ask them to bring mementos they’d like to include in their time capsule that describes who they are at this moment, such as a favorite candy, recording of their favorite song, a favorite movie advertisement, and so on. Also have kids bring mementos that represent things such as their greatest accomplishment, the most influential person in their life, and what they want to be when they grow up.
Before class, print a Personal Stats sheet for each child to complete, including the following information.
- Likes and Dislikes (food, classes, movies)
- Favorites (colors, songs, famous people, Bible verses)
- Statistics (height, weight, hair color and length, shoe size)
- God’s Impact on My Life (statement)
- Note to My Future Self (what they want to learn, do, and accomplish in the coming year)
Have kids place their mementos and Personal Stats sheets inside their tins. Take a Polaroid photograph of each child to put in the tin. Have kids seal their tins and tape a label to the top that reads, “[Child’s name]’s Time Capsule: to be opened at the end of school.”
Store the time capsules in your classroom, and keep extra tins for new children who join your class. Kids will be thrilled to open their time capsules at the end of the school year and review how they’ve changed and grown.
9. Desktop Treasures
This fun project will keep kids busy building treasure boxes for their desks at school.
For each child, you’ll need:
- 60 to 100 popsicle sticks
- and several wooden tongue depressors.
You’ll also need:
- regular glue,
- hot glue sticks and hot glue guns,
- large beads,
- and scissors.
Spread newspapers on a work surface to prevent any messes with glue. Have kids decide what shape treasure box they’d like to make and then begin building it by stacking popsicle sticks log-cabin-style, gluing as they go. To make the bottom of the treasure box, have kids cut the wooden tongue depressors to fit the bottom of the box and then glue them in place. Make lids by gluing popsicle sticks side by side on top of wooden tongue depressors. Finish the boxes by adding large beads for feet and a handle to the lid. Adults may help kids glue decorations to the boxes and lids using hot glue. Kids can use their treasure boxes to store anything from memory verses to candy to mementos.
10. Early Bird Prayer Journals
Begin a new tradition in your classroom that encourages kids to arrive early and to share their prayer requests in a non-threatening environment.
Prior to the start of your class, decorate a spiral notebook or binder. This will serve as your class prayer journal. Attach a pen to the journal with yarn. Write an entry in the journal yourself.
During the first class, introduce the journal and encourage kids to arrive a few minutes early to write their prayer requests and praises in the journal. Give kids the option to leave their prayer requests anonymously, and include a prayer for the unspoken and unrecorded prayer requests among children as well.
Use the prayer journal to lead your class in prayer. You’ll find kids arrive a few minutes early to jot their thoughts in the journal.
11. Back-to-School Blessings
Here’s a quick and easy way to help children in your neighborhood start the school year right with a tasty treat and prayer.
Invite your church neighbors to gather on the afternoon before school begins for a short time of prayer and popsicles. Personalize invitations for the families in your neighborhood and deliver them one week before the event.
Purchase enough popsicles for everyone, and include disposable towelettes for cleanup. You’ll also need plenty of cooler space to prevent the popsicles from melting. Recruit your senior pastor or a parent to lead a prayer for the kids and for the new school year.
On the day of the event, welcome families and offer them popsicles. Keep the disposable towelettes handy. Allow time for families to visit, and then ask everyone to meet together. Have kids stand in the center of the gathering, then have your prayer leader ask for God’s blessing on the children, their teachers, and the school year.