If you’ve worked with kids, you know that boundaries and borders aren’t barriers for them. Children have the amazing ability to overcome obstacles when it comes to ministering to fellow children—whether they’re in need next door or across the globe. Challenge the kids in your ministry to take on the world while they make a big difference in other kids’ lives—near and far.
Close to Home
Some needs are as close as the Sunday school room next door. Here are ideas kids can use to make a difference in your church.
1. The Connection Point
Being brand new to church can be intimidating—especially for kids. As families walk into your church, adults are almost always there to shake hands and greet other adults, but kids are often bypassed or overlooked. So train your kids specifically to connect with other kids.
Have your kids set up a welcome table in your church’s entry that’s colorfully decorated with images from recent children’s ministry events, small group and class names, and your ministry’s logo and tagline. Provide printed, kid-friendly information about your ministry for distribution; and prep kids with friendly conversation starters such as, “What’s your school like?” or, “What’s your favorite TV show?”
Each week, have two or three kids rotate serving at the connection point, where their job is to greet all kids who come in—whether regulars or visitors. Teach kids to greet those they know by name and approach those they don’t with a smile. Encourage greeters to ask other kids their names and to introduce themselves. Greeters can give visiting kids a small gift from your ministry, such as a zipper pull or button (which can also be a great visual signal to your ministry team that you have a guest) and then walk with kids and their families to the appropriate ministry area.
2. Read Me a Story
Kids who love to read can share that love while serving younger kids with this idea. Invite older kids in your children’s ministry to read a children’s Bible aloud to younger children in your nursery or preschool program.
If your children’s ministry has a library, provide the Bibles. If not, invite kids to bring theirs from home to share or create a wish list where parents can purchase a Bible to donate to a reading library. Any children’s Bible with great illustrations will work, especially if there’s a connection to the Bible lesson younger kids are learning. Kids can choose which Bible story to read, no more than five minutes each. Coach readers to point out illustrations as they read, speak clearly and with enthusiasm, share their favorite parts of each situation, and invite little ones to share their favorite parts, too. Give readers opportunities to practice with each other before they read to their audience.
Set up a time for your readers to join the younger kids. You may opt for one special reading day, or a set amount of time over several weeks for kids to read together. Let your readers introduce themselves to the little ones and say what they love best about reading. Then let them dive into the Bible. Close each reading session with a prayer of thanks for God’s Word.
You’ll be amazed by the results—not only by the great events kids explore together, but by their budding relationships, growing self-esteem, and pure enjoyment of reading and sharing God’s Word.
3. Care Corner for Kids
Kids have a knack for reaching out to one another like no one else. So let them take the lead when it comes to connecting with friends who are sick, hurting, or absent.
Create a Care Corner in your room, stocked with paper, pens and pencils, stickers, and stamps. Display 2 Corinthians 1:3 (“All praise to God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. God is our merciful Father and the source of all comfort”) on a poster to remind kids of God’s compassion.
Each week, encourage kids to use a bit of their free time to write a note to someone they know who could use some compassion. For a child who’s absent, sick, sad, or otherwise hurting, a personal note can make all the difference. Encourage kids to include people they know inside and outside of the church.
When a child is absent, have kids collectively sign a card saying they missed the child. Let the child know the topic and the main point, include any take-home papers or information, and then have kids address the envelope and return it to you to mail.
4. ‘Til We Meet Again
Whenever a friend moves, it’s difficult for all. Help kids left behind and the child who’s gone by sending a custom care package.
Have the child fill out a “favorites page” that lists favorite treats, movies, and activities. Get the child’s new address from his or her parents.
One month after a child leaves, have kids create cards, drawings, and pictures. Encourage kids to include stories or memories about the child who’s moved and photos of your class. Using the child’s favorites page, have kids choose one item for $5 or less to include as a special treat. Include a note of encouragement from you and an invitation to write back.
Beyond the Front Yard
Stepping outside the comfort zone of the church, these ideas inspire kids to make a difference in their communities.
5. Snack Attack
Local parks and sports fields are typically packed on any given Saturday—and a ripe opportunity for your kids to share some health and happiness with others.
Identify nearby parks and sports fields, and recruit enough parent volunteers to have one adult per five kids who can visit the park as a group. Arm each group with individually wrapped snacks such as cereal bars, popsicles, or fruit snacks, and juice boxes. Pack the snacks in a box or wagon for each group with a sign that reads, “Free Snacks from the kids at (your ministry’s name).”
Have kids meet at your church on Saturday morning. Start with a prayer, asking God to help kids meet the people he wants them to, and then head out to the parks and fields. Encourage kids to chat with their newfound acquaintances by asking questions such as their names, favorite sports, or what schools they attend as they distribute snacks. This “just because” act of kindness can help befriend neighbors and opens the door for inviting families to church or to an upcoming family or children’s ministry event.
6. Test Busters
The kids in your ministry can ease their fellow classmates’ stress when it comes to standardized school testing with this service idea.
Contact your school district to find out when it conducts standardized testing and mark your calendar. Get permission from the principal or administrator to bring a gift for kids on that date.
Encourage kids to pray regularly for their classmates who’ll be testing. Then have kids fill cellophane gift bags with two pencils; a small toy; and a healthy, prepackaged snack item. On the outside of the bag attach a self-adhesive label that says, “I’m thinking of you as you take your test—and I know that you’ll do your best!”
Have kids deliver enough bags for their classmates on the first day of testing. They can include a small bag for teachers with tea bags, a pack of gum or mints, an apple, and a bag of microwave popcorn.
7. On-Call Meals
Many families spend months away from home when they have a sick child receiving medical care. Help these families experience a home-cooked meal by bringing meals to local hospitals.
Although a sick child may be unable to have visitors, kids in your ministry can prepare and deliver meals to family members of the child and visit, write an encouraging note, or include reading material such as magazines or books in a care package. Simply coordinate with local hospitals to make it simple for families to request a meal. You’ll need to know food allergies, likes and dislikes, and the number of people you’re cooking for.
Have kids develop menus. Assign duties, including who’ll shop, prepare food, package the meal, write the card, and deliver the food. Meet on a Saturday morning to cook and package the meal and deliver it by early afternoon. Include a prayer for healing and health in the card kids create.
8. Toy Drive
This idea encourages kids to give gifts sacrificially throughout the year. Kids in your ministry can sponsor seasonal toy drives several times throughout the school year to collect specific, new items such as balls, sidewalk chalk, snow sleds, or kites.
Contact community agencies that supply children’s needs such as a homeless shelter, women’s safe house, law enforcement, social services, and your fire department. Ask for their wish lists of items that would directly help kids, and then challenge your kids to tackle the lists.
Kids can create and decorate drop-off bins to collect the needed items. Ensure that the bins clearly state the needs and whom the donations will benefit. Once the collection time is up, have kids gather the items and place stickers on them that say, “Just to make you smile! From the kids at (your church/ministry name).” Before you take your kids to deliver the toys to the community agencies, pray for the children who’ll receive each item.
9. Bear Hugs
This special outreach gives your kids an opportunity to comfort children in crisis through a creative and meaningful collection.
Families in serious crisis are in every community, and often they may never find their way to your ministry. However, they do often find their way into contact with law enforcement and emergency responders — who frequently find themselves comforting the children. Having soft, lovable cuddlies to give to kids in seriously stressful situations is meaningful not only to the child but the emergency responders as well.
Have kids make creative advertisements and display them in your church for several weeks promoting a weekend when your ministry will request new, plush bears and stuffed animals from the pulpit. Encourage kids to save money to purchase a new plush animal, too. Then during your children’s and adult worship services, invite people to bring up their bears. After the animals are up front, have your senior pastor pray that the gifts so lovingly given will bless hurting children in your community.
At the end of your services, kids can box up the stuffed animals and help you deliver them to a local police station or fire department.
10. Kid Food Drive
Your kids can provide a kid-licious meal for an unknown friend in need by doing a food drive that’s focused on younger taste buds.
With the current tight economy, more and more families are making their way to food pantries to gather meal essentials. And donated items most often overlooked are foods that kids specifically enjoy.
Ask a grocer to donate large paper grocery sacks and distribute them in your ministry area with a note attached indicating when items are due back. Also list recommended, kid-friendly food items, such as cereal, fruit snacks, granola bars, peanut butter, jelly, lunch snack packs, crackers, and jars of baby food. Encourage your kids to get their families in on collecting food for young friends in need.
In a Place Far, Far Away
Kids can take on the world—and make a difference—with these ideas.
11. Take-Out Help
Kids can provide basic necessities for Chinese orphans with this project.
Find and print information about Chinese children, including those who are at-risk and have special needs, and pray for them by name by going to chinaorphans.org. You’ll find profiles, specific needs, and ways kids can help.
Give each child a Chinese take-out box to decorate (to order boxes, go to papermart.com). For a designated period of time, ask kids to collect money in their take-out box to help orphans in China. At the end of your collection period, visit the website for instructions on how to send the financial support kids raised to help these orphans. Then throughout the school year, have kids choose one or two of the orphans to pray for during class.
12. Quenching Their Thirst
Your kids can make a significant health impact in African kids’ lives by helping give them access to clean drinking water.
In many African villages, clean drinking water is nonexistent. As a result, many African children drinking unclean water become infected with worms, which can eventually travel to kids’ hearts, resulting in death. There are several organizations—some led by kids—that focus on bringing clean drinking water to African villages. For this project, you’ll need one plastic drinking glass per child (available at discount stores).
Give each child a drinking glass. Talk with your kids about the drinking water conditions in some African villages. Then challenge kids to collect as much change as possible over the next four weeks in the drinking glass. Encourage kids to tell their friends and families about the challenges these villages face.
Have kids bring their coin-filled glasses to church and tally how many wells they’ll help dig, thanks to their efforts.
13. Sewing Dignity
Gather a group of kids in your ministry who like crafts and teach them to sew these cute pillowcase dresses for girls in Uganda.
Clothing for many in Uganda is a luxury, and children rarely get new items to wear. Your kids can hand-create dresses which will be cherished and worn regularly by girls in Uganda.
Kids can collect new or barely used pillowcases from friends and family before they begin their sewing projects. If kids get plain, white pillowcases, let them tie-dye them with colorful fabric dye. Ask adult women with sewing machines to bring them to the church and teach kids how to sew these simple dresses. Schedule several Saturday or Sunday afternoons for kids to create dresses to send to Uganda through Hope 4 Kids International(hope4kidsinternational.com).
14. Call Them Up
Connect kids with other kids around the world for pennies by using Skype—free video and voice calls-to communicate.
Connect with a Christian school or organization in countries where your denomination has a missionary connection.
Organize a schedule and topics for kids to gather and Skype with their new friends. Chat times can include things in kids’ cultures, news about their families, or things they’re learning from the Bible. Prep your kids on the topic before you connect with the other group, and keep discussion starters on hand in case the conversation lags. Close each conversation with this prayer where both groups of kids join in.
Adult: Dear God, thank you for our circle of friends.
Kids: Friends are a gift from you.
Adult: Thank you for our differences and our similarities.
Kids: You’ve made our world so rich and wonderful.
Adult: Thank you for your son, Jesus.
Kids: He is the greatest gift of all.
15. Virtual Story Sharing
Have your class or small group establish a secure chat room to communicate with other kids around the country and around the globe.
Connect with other churches worldwide who may be interested in joining your ministry’s chat room. You can quickly find Christian churches in other countries by doing an Internet search or connecting with your denomination. To set up a free, secure chat room, go to kidchatters.com. The best chat rooms are updated regularly and have postings that are less than 200 words each. Read each entry before you post it to ensure content is appropriate, and choose the function where comments must be reviewed prior to posting to keep your site free of inappropriate posts or comments.
Encourage kids to contribute new posts every week. Their topics might include ways God is working in their schools, how they’re growing in their faith or personal God sightings. This year-round cyber outreach lets kids from around the globe connect, communicate, share, and inspire each other via their words and stories.
The talents of these authors made this article possible: Janna Firestone from Greeley, Colorado; Monika Hardy from Loveland, Colorado; Lisa Leonard from New Providence, New Jersey; Melissa Guillebeau Line from Dacula, Georgia; MariLee Parrish from Loveland, Colorado; Brenna Phillips from Middletown, Delaware; Douglas Rose from Grand Prairie, Texas; Patty Smith from Nashville, Tennessee; and Emily Snider from Roseville, Michigan.
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