This article originally appeared in the March 2013 issue.
By Mimi Bullock
Mimi Bullock writes for www.Ministry-To-Children.com, a resource started by Tony Kummer to solve children’s ministry problems.
The last day of school means freedom and fun for kids; for the children’s minister, it marks the beginning of a season of low attendance and waning participation. For some ministers, it is a season for planning and personal revival. As you know, Christian ministry has had to change over the past few years. The kids’ pastor must constantly seek new ways to reach and manage his or her flock, and the summer is no exception.
Change the way you count attendance.
Summer attendance is not measured by how many kids walk into your building. It is counted by how many kids you reached that week through venues like outdoor activities, by phone or through cards and newsletters.
Expect to go outdoors.
Be the fun pastor. I use a map and mark where my kids are by their addresses. I ask kids and their families if they would be willing to host a ministry fun day. The goals are to reach the kids in their neighborhood and minister to the regulars with fun, safe activities. I bring the slip and slide, the bubble machine, or a volleyball set. We gather their friends and have a great time!
Change your children’s church format.
To placate a child’s summer playfulness, we added special summer puppets, summer-inspired games and worship time with beach balls. I adjusted the regular format to include a few more games and time for socialization. It works!
Establish stronger social connections.
During the summer, I work hard on updating my statistical information. I pursue parents and grandparents for new addresses, phone numbers and information. I want my summer newsletters featuring our new program updates to go to the right address.
Build momentum towards a big summer event.
I’m a big proponent of the one-night kids’ crusade. There’s nothing like ending the summer with a big dose of the Word and loving on God. I create a fun theme like “Summer Splash Down” or “God’s Big Fireworks” and then go from there. Every week, I talk it up during kids’ church, through my social networks, and it even goes in the “big” newsletter. This gives kids an additional reason to come back to church at the end of summer.
Summertime ministry to children is touch and go. Outside of big events like VBS, regular weekly attendance can wane during the summer months in the children’s ministry. Kids go on family vacations, head to summer camps, and focus on play rather than worship. Meanwhile, nervous children’s ministry leaders anxiously await the return of their children, knowing that a few will not make it back. Kids make new friends and sometimes visit other churches. In return, we pray over kids and feel somewhat helpless until the summer hubbub ends.
This year, refuse to take a step back in your ministry. Summer should not put you on the defense. Take your ministry on the offense, metaphorically speaking, of course. Forget hanging back at the church while the summer passes you by. Get out where the kids are and spend your summer connecting rather than disconnecting from your group.
Collect the addresses of children before summer arrives. From the addresses, gather children together in neighborhood groups. Before school is out, announce to children you will be stopping by in summer for snack visits. Ask kids to tell you their favorite snacks and drinks. You might hand out a form for kids to fill out. Visit kids by neighborhood will school lets out. Call ahead of course and get parent’s permission to visit. Show up with snacks and some outdoor play with kids. Bring bubble wands and chalk for playtime. Keep visits short about 30 minutes to 1 hour. Visit each kid in your predetermined neighborhood. Visit the neighborhood weekly or biweekly according to your schedule. Collect prayer requests, pray for kids, and have fun. You might assign different neighborhoods to different days of the week. Involve your staff in these trips, but stay involved yourself.
Create an interactive email newsletter for kids. On the other hand, if you are technologically challenged as many of us are, just send an email. Include simple polls so kids will respond and interact with you. Vary questions from spiritual to silly. Make announcements in your newsletter advertising fun weekly themes in your children’s ministry. Include photographs of your kids or your family enjoying summer activities.
No matter how you do it, don’t let this important time slip by. Get out of the office and back into the children’s ministry field this summer. When summer is gone, you will have a spiritual harvest of excited kids who love Jesus!
Don’t succumb to the summer doldrums. Change your methods and reap big rewards.