Keep the summer outreach fires burning this summer and beyond so you continue to reach children for Jesus in your community. Discover these all new, HOT ideas to keep reaching children in your community—all year long.
Summer means you’ll have tons of kids come to your church because of your great summer programs! But what’s next? Don’t let the enthusiasm of summer wane. Instead, keep your outreach fires burning so you can continue to reach children for Jesus in your community. Read on to find ideas to keep your outreach efforts sizzling instead of fizzling.
After a summer of fantastic outreach programs, don’t let the embers of your outreach die down. Keep the fires burning with Wacky Wednesdays (or Marvelous Mondays or Terrific Tuesdays or Fabulous Fridays or Slamming Saturdays—you get the point). Try any of these themes to excite kids and bring them back to your church for more each week!
1. Patriotic Craft Night
This theme works well around Labor Day or Veterans’ Day.
Set up six tables for six different crafts; you’ll rotate children to each craft table. Staff each table with an adult or teen volunteer to help out. Try these crafts.
• Flag Photo Children decorate a paper frame with markers and patriotic stickers. Each child then has his or her picture taken with the American flag. We used a black backdrop that looked nice. It’s best to use an instant-print camera for this craft.
• Sparkly Shakers Children pour red, white, and blue small aquarium-type rocks and glitter pieces into washed 8- or 10-ounce water bottles. Fill bottles less than ? full. Remove the labels on the bottles.
• Pledge Plaques Kids decoupage small slips of paper with the Pledge of Allegiance printed on them onto a 4×6-inch block of wood. Then kids add red, white, and blue sticker stars around the edges.
• Flag Magnets Children trace the flag pattern on thin, 2×4-inch pieces of craft wood. The children paint the red and white stripes and the blue corner of the flag. They also paint one small white wooden craft star and glue it in the blue square. When dry, they glue a magnet to the back.
• Bead Jewelry Children string red, white, and blue beads (round- and star-shaped) on elastic cord and tie the ends of the cord together. Lengths can vary from bracelet to choker to necklace length.
• Snack Attack Each child helps make red, white, and blue cupcakes. Mix a white cake mix according to package instructions and divide the batter equally into three separate bowls. Add several drops of red food coloring to one bowl and blue to another bowl. The third bowl will remain white. Fill cupcake tins, bake, and allow cupcakes to cool completely. Finish with chocolate or white frosting for snack time. Add red, white, and blue sprinkles on top.
Children also help make a Red, White & Blue Fruit Pizza.
2. Movie Night
Here’s a cool idea for a hot night! Children line up outside your theater — a room arranged for the movie. Each child is given a designated amount of play money. Part of the money is used for admission and the other is used for candy at the snack bar. Popcorn and soft drinks are free and all-you-can-eat.
3. Wacky Water Games Night
For this evening, tell children ahead of time to wear clothes that can get wet. Children rotate to water game stations set up outside. Give each child a chilled bottle of drinking water to have during the games and, of course, end the evening with watermelon.
• Water Balloon Toss Form two teams, and have teams stand 10 feet apart. Have team members toss a water balloon back and forth to the person standing across from them. Keep tossing until you run out of water balloons.
• Sponge Relay Two teams each have a bucket of water and a big sponge. Players on each team soak their team’s sponge and run to the other end to squeeze water into an empty bucket until the bucket is filled to a certain level.
• Hot Sponge Have children sit in a circle. Play music and start passing a soaked sponge around the circle Hot Potato-style. When the music stops, the person left holding the sponge gets the sponge squeezed on him or her by the person who just handed off the sponge.
• Cup of Water Relay Two teams line up with the first person holding a full cup of water overhead. On “go,” the first person races to the other end around an orange cone and back. The next person refills the cup and repeats.
• Hoops Game Each child gets a chance to throw three water balloons inside a hula hoop that’s lying on the ground.
• Through the Sprinkler The first person on each team runs through a sprinkler to a bucket on the other side, dips three cups of water from one bucket into another, runs back, and tags the next person.
4. Park Night
Invite kids to a field trip to a nearby park with good play equipment. Grill hot dogs and make s’mores. Require signed permission slips before taking children off your church property.
5. Goofy Games Night
Set up nontraditional game stations outside. Good resources for games are your public school’s physical education teacher and the Internet. Do a search for “kids’ outside games,” and explore the many options. Don’t forget about your local Christian bookstore for game books also. For more great games, click here.
6. Pastor’s House Night
Check with your pastor first! The children file inside for tacos and back out again to have a picnic outside. If your pastor’s home doesn’t have play equipment outside, bring lawn games or plan team games. Again, don’t forget permission slips.
7. Mystery Night
Don’t reveal the theme of this night to kids until one week before. You could even keep the theme a secret until that night if you desire. The mystery is a Christmas celebration in August. Decorate the room for Christmas, play several Christmas games, serve Christmas snacks and, of course, give gifts. We wrapped school supplies for our children.
A SIDENOTE ON OUTREACH: PUPPET MINISTRY GOES PUBLIC
Years ago, something wonderful took place in our public schools. Our church had started a puppet team almost 10 years before. We’d performed for church programs, Christmas programs, and camps, but that was about the extent of our work. We’d tried to get into the public school system, but to no avail. “Separation of church and state” just wasn’t going to allow that to happen. But now, with character education, we suddenly had an open invitation into the public schools.
The nation was beginning to focus on character. Schools needed help and kids needed character. With juvenile crime growing at alarming rates, something had to be done. That’s where the door opened, and churches could either walk in or just sit back and ignore it. We chose to walk in. We changed the name of our puppet team to Zack and Company (formerly called Zacchaeus and Company) so there’d be no immediate affiliation with our church or anything biblical. We put together a fast-paced, high-action program involving teachers and students. We centered our program on the character words the school system was emphasizing each month with lots of Scripture references (just never mentioning the fact that what we were saying came from Scripture). We never mentioned our church, God, prayer, or the Bible. If Jesus is the center of all character—and he is—then all that was necessary was to allow Jesus to work through us and let the students and teachers see true character.
Our team gets together in the fall of each year, we add a few new workers (our team consists of 20 people ranging in ages from 7 years old to 50 years old), and we practice many hours after church and late into the night. We use hand-held puppets and ventriloquist puppets, but mostly our team is centered around three life-sized puppets. We sing; dance; play games that involve workers, students, and teachers; do magic tricks; and hand out gifts. It’s a fast-paced, fun-packed 45 minutes that passes all too quickly for everyone.
In Matthew 10:16, Jesus tells us to be “as shrewd as snakes and as innocent as doves.” We’ve tried to follow that command. We name our shows after Scripture. For example, last year our show was called “Bad Company Corrupts Good Character.” Everything in our program showed how kids need to choose their friends wisely, because their company can affect their lives. We hung a sign with the name of our program on the front of the stage, and in each school a teacher or principal would announce our program to all the students. Where did we get the name, and why was it so special? First Corinthians 15:33 says, “Do not be misled: ‘Bad company corrupts good character.’ ”
Does it work? Absolutely! We’re now invited every year to every elementary school in the county. As a children’s pastor, I’ve been asked to write articles for a newspaper sent to all county teachers and workers and even to supply Scriptures for all the character words that are used. One of our team members went to an event for her college training in Lexington, Kentucky. To her surprise our puppet team was featured as a great way for churches and schools to work together to teach character education. It was presented by our local superintendent and the county character education coordinator. The student was amazed. Here was something she was part of at church, and suddenly they were teaching prospective teachers in a secular college that this was a great way for churches and schools to get together. Imagine our excitement when she came back to practice with that story.
Schools introduce us as a church ministry and even invite the students, if they wish to see more of Zack and Company, to attend our church each week where Zack and Company performs all the time. The open door we’ve been given by God is absolutely amazing. However, we believe the greatest benefit is what happens after we leave. You see, teachers have told us stories about the boys and girls who, once we’re gone, talk about our program. They talk about our church, and then those students who are from our church begin to invite, talk about God, and even share their faith with their friends. We’ve actually had children bring their friends to church who then choose to follow Jesus. And it all happened through public schools.
Do you still think it’s impossible to get into the public school system today? We’re living proof that it isn’t. With some prayer, some practice, a little hard work, and a lot of determination, you’ll be amazed at what God can do. Who are we? We’re just a puppet team. What do we do? We just do a puppet show. What is the outcome? Only God knows. But when God is in control, even the gates of a public school can be opened wide.
Steve Harney (firstname.lastname@example.org) is a children’s pastor in Somerset, Kentucky. To learn more about Zack and Company, go to www.coolkidsministries.com.
For more great articles like this in every issue, subscribe today to Children’s Ministry Magazine.