A couple weeks ago, I preached at a congregation that was preparing for the launch of Vacation Bible School. They had decorated the entire front of the worship center with special posters, furnishings, and props to establish the theme of the week, and the musicians and youth leaders invited all the children forward to practice a song or two to promote Vacation Bible School. On the projection screens, they showed a brief video clip taped by youth and youth leaders of the church to dramatize humorously how to prepare and invite friends. It was great! And the children really seemed to respond. And in the foyer, there was a sign-up table for more volunteers and they were giving out T-shirts for the adult teachers and sponsors.
The pastor told me that they expected about 160 children for the Sunday evening launch event. This compares to an average of about 50 children regularly active in their children’s programs and Sunday School. Wow! Not surprisingly, he said that Vacation Bible School was one of their principle invitational and outreach events of the summer. Just the other day, I received an email from the pastor of a small congregation that regularly has about 60 people in worship attendance. With great satisfaction, he shared with me how their Vacation Bible School this year included more than 90 children, and that this included children of five families who had never before attended the church.
Another congregation holds an annual Music Camp for kids near the end of the summer to complement the Vacation Bible School they offer at the beginning of summer. The Music Camp is for elementary age children, and is a five day event that includes three hours of singing, scripture study, learning about worship, and preparing a musical in the mornings at the church, a snack lunch, and then a couple hours of fun-time together each day, such as swimming, bowling, etc. On the Sunday after Music Camp, all the children present the well-rehearsed musical at the worship service. The service attracts dozens of guests and relatives, and helps launch the church’s fall sign up for other children’s ministries and adult studies.
These various ministries are all mark by Radical Hospitality, as evidenced by the focus not just on our own children and grandchildren, but on the children of the neighborhood and community. Each of these attracts and involves four to six times as many children in the week-long focus than they ordinarily do for their weekly ministries. And I like the keen interest in Intentional Faith Development for our children, teaching scriptures, parables, songs, and worship skills. And I like including the children in worship in ways that allow them to deepen their understanding of why and how we connect to God through prayer, music, and worship.
What’s the focus of your summer children’s ministry? Do you have any ideas you’d like to share? How do you invite and welcome children from the community, and how do you follow up with these families to invite them into other ministries of the church? What are you doing that others can learn from?
Yours in Christ,