So many activities are available for children to do throughout the year, and some parents involve their kids in all of them. Other parents, though, are looking for affordable, wholesome family fun that does not involve a lot of commitment.
This is where the church can stand in the gap.
Churches can host activities and outreach opportunities with a bit of planning and minimal involvement from church members. As a disclaimer, the plan presented here is not the only ideology that works. Feel free to take these ideas and make them your own. However, it’s guaranteed that flying by the seat of your pants is not the most effective way to reach families in the church (maybe because they know you) or families in the community (forget it).
- Be intentional. Who do you want to reach? Families in the church? Community families? Families are generally looking for activities that are quick, cheap, and wholesome. By reaching out to the community, your church can offer those opportunities.
- Be relational. Reaching out to the community can be a great way to get parents in your church out of the unbiblical “What’s in it for me?” mentality. An activity can turn into a ministry opportunity for them. While reaching out can be tough at first, children seem to bridge the divide between their parents. When parents bring their children, the kids are best friends before they know each other’s names, enabling church parents to get to know the visiting parents.
- Be time-organized. Before the upcoming year, get out your church schedule and mark dates for events. Start small, maybe every other month. Communicate publicly that the church is offering family-themed events that are affordable (shoot for FREE) and that the timeliness of the events follows a pattern. Saturday mornings or afternoons seem to work best for my community. Hint: When planning every-other-month activities, it might be wise to have December as an off month.
- Be people-organized. Enlist help. One answer to enlisting help may be a youth committee, comprised of volunteers who make church a priority in children’s lives. Those people don’t have to be parents. Some of the best, untapped volunteers are those with the most experience: the elderly. Volunteers could help with setup and take-down, drive vehicles, referee, serve refreshments, and mingle with the attendees. They are also great sources for event ideas.
- Be promotional. Cross-promote. Have an Awana or Upward Sports program? Let those families know of your event. VBS? Same thing. Use all the ministries of your church to let people know of your other events. Create fliers that church kids can take to school and hand out to classmates (with teacher or school permission). Kids are some of the best advertisers.
- Be consistent. The numbers may not be there at first. It’s not about numbers anyway. One year a youth worker held a water event in the middle of summer. It was barely 70 degrees and raining. Fifteen families attended—all from the church. No visitors. The next year the same event was planned. That time the weather was in the mid-90s and sunny. Attending were three families in the church and one visiting family in the neighborhood. The visiting family eventually became regular attenders. That’s a win.
- Be creative. Try new things. Mix it up. If an activity works, keep it. If not, get that youth team together and see if it can be tweaked or needs to be scrapped.
All of the following events have proven successful in various churches. Some are crazy, some are high impact, and some are simple.
Fun in the Sun. A simple event that can be used as a picnic—even on church grounds or in a park. Water always wins. Have a Slip-n-Slide, a kiddie pool, an infants pool, water balloons, water guns . . . you get the idea. Round out the event with a snack such as Popsicles or fresh fruit.
Pumpkin Painting Picnic. A good event for fall. Buy a bunch of small to medium pumpkins and either purchase cheap acrylic paints or ask around for some to use. There are probably ladies in your church who have craft paints just sitting at home. You can also double this activity with caramel apples; kids (and parents!) love decorating them with different toppings (M&Ms, nuts of all kinds, candy corn, nerds, etc.). The painting can be messy—but the mess stays at your activity site. That’s a plus for kids and parents.
Art Bazaar. A good indoor event that gets kids to be creative. Set up tables with a different craft idea and theme on each one. They can even be Biblically based. (The ladies of the church love getting involved in this one—station a lady at each table as a guide.) Kids and parents move from table to table making crafts. A cool feature: display all the art the following day in church as if it were an art gallery. Now the entire church can be involved as viewers. Print up labels with the art piece title and the artist’s name on blank business cards and place them next to the art.
Cookie Decorating. Just like the Art Bazaar and Pumpkin Painting Picnic, but this time the kids get to decorate freshly baked cookies. Go one step further and have kids and parents make and bake the cookies as well.
PB&J Club. This is a great summer outreach for moms. Mothers can meet at a busy park every week or every other week at the same day and time. Certainly other moms and children will be present. This event gives the church moms an opportunity to get to know other moms outside the church. Those moms are looking for something, and they probably don’t even know what it is. This is a great inroads in sharing what (or Who) it is.
Lego My Eggo. Legos and Eggos are an interesting mix. Have a brunch that begins with Lego activities for all ages. Three different sizes are available for infants, toddlers, and grade-school children. Plan some events and games. Who can build the small kit the fastest? The winner gets the kit as a prize. Break up into groups (with parents) and build Noah’s ark. Also, open up a time for allowing the kids to build whatever they want. Kids’ imaginations are amazing. And the parents usually cannot help but build themselves. After an hour or two, serve waffles with sausage links and scrambled eggs. Have all sorts of toppings for the waffles. Hints: The Eggo company actually makes Lego shaped waffles. Buckets of basic Lego bricks generally go on sale the week between Christmas and New Year’s. And you may be surprised at how many people in the church have buckets of Legos lying around and are willing to bring them in.
These are a few ideas to get you started. What does your church do to reach out to families? Share your thoughts and ideas in the comments.