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In this topic, we are gathering creative events and ideas with the theme of Renewal, Re-Commitment, Rally, Stepping Up to the Challenge, etc.; especially events for the fall return of Sunday School (but suitable any time you are rallying the troops!).

Related Links:

Additionally, below are a few links to end-of-summer and beginning-of-the-school-year ideas and resources that you can find elsewhere at our site:

Please join the conversation and post your renewal-themed event resource or idea here.


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Last edited by Neil MacQueen
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Here are two great ideas for helping students and families get back into the learning habit.

Prayer Partners for Beginning a New Year of Learning

In order to support our students, foster intergenerational connections in the church community, and remind adults of the baptism commitment that they make to support and nurture children in the faith, we created a Prayer Partner program.


Adults were encouraged to sign up to pray for a child at the start of the public school year and Sunday School year.  And our students (or the parents of younger children) were given cards to fill out that gave the partner a bit of information to enable them to pray more specifically during the first few weeks of the school year.

The start of a new school year is an anxious and exciting time for both kids and parents, and the Prayer Partner program let them know we were there for them.

This is how we worded the request to the adults in the bulletin and on signup sheets in the gathering area:

Many of our students return to school the first week in August (Wednesday, August 6 for Ascension Parish schools). We are asking members of our congregation to commit to praying for a student the first few weeks of the school year. If you would like to be a prayer partner, please sign up here. You will receive information about the student(s) you will be praying for soon. Thank you!

The student's card said:

Students (and parents): we would like to pray for you as you start the school year. Please take a moment to fill out this student prayer request form and leave it in the basket in the gathering area. It will be given to someone who has committed to pray for you for the first few weeks of the school year.

Information requested on the student's cards (doc attached if you would like to adapt it):

  • Name
  • School
  • Grade
  • Date of first day of school (we had multiple schools and districts in our area)
  • Parents' names
  • Any special concerns or prayer requests
  • Contact information (optional)

If some of your parents are skittish about sharing their children's personal information with people they do not know or connecting their kids to unknown adults, adapt the prayer requests to be first name (or initials) and grade only and do not give the prayer partner the school name or any other identifying details. God will know who is being prayed for.

If you are in a small community or if people are comfortable sharing home addresses, encourage the prayer partners to mail the child a card or letter the first week of school to encourage them and to let them know that they are being prayed for. Kids love getting mail!
(If your budget allows, provide postage stamps and cards to the prayer partners so that more children get mail. )

This was a gratifying program, as I was able to introduce some of the adults in the congregation to children that they really did not know. We had prayer requests for specific subjects in school as well as for no bullying in a new school. One mom wrote, "Recently diagnosed with dyslexia – pray for her frustration level and endurance! (and for Mom, too!)" And we even had a college student fill out a card asking for prayer.

And pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests.
With this in mind, be alert and always keep on praying for all the Lord’s people.

- Ephesians 6:18 (NIV)

Related Idea:

"Prayers Answered" Partners: helping students with supply needs

In some congregations and their surrounding community, there are children who need school supplies and basic articles of clothing (like underwear and shoes) to start the school year.

Acts of kindness and gifts of much-needed supplies are prayers-answered!

  • Who in your Sunday School might need some "Sunday School clothes"?
  • Who in your Sunday School might need a car seat or new Bible?
  • Who in your Sunday School needs school supplies?
  • Who in your Sunday School has an after-school supervision issue?
  • You could create an anonymous donor program that matches needs to donors.
  • You could also talk to your local school nurse or principal and collect new clothing items, like socks and underwear and supplies like toothpaste, soap, and deodorant for students in need.


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Kick Off Your Return to School with a Splash!

Water is a fun, wonderful, and biblical reminder of renewing, refreshing, and preparing for a new school or Sunday School year.

While often thought of as a "break" from Sunday school or an "end of the summer" event, having some water fun on a Sunday around the restart of the school year could be a great reminder and energizer for all ages.

This same water theme can also be tied into the Sunday morning sermon and liturgy, maybe even having a baptism that day. See some ideas for renewing baptism promises. here.

Making a water-themed "splash" to the start of your Sunday School can also be an intergenerational event that adults can use to re-energize their participation in adult classes and small groups.

Of course, the internet is full of "water" games and events. Here are a few links to get you started.

Water Bible Stories tie-ins:

Jonah and the Sunday School Whale:  God wants you to study his word, you have other ideas and try to head another direction. Why not build Jonah's whale?

Have your event at a park or lake where participants can rent canoes and kayaks: Jesus joins you in your boat (the one you're trying hard to row against the wind and seas). Mark 6:48

Crossing the Red Sea while being chased by "armies of distractions and competing priorities"

Cleaning off the "rust and crust" to prepare yourself for learning God's Word.

Jesus the living water, living water flowing out of us...

  • John 4:14
    --but those who drink of the water that I will give them will never be thirsty. The water that I will give will become in them a spring of water gushing up to eternal life.”
  • John 7:38
    --and let the one who believes in me drink. As the scripture has said, ‘Out of the believer’s heart shall flow rivers of living water.’ ”

    Here's a neat video about "water" in the Bible. Studying God's Word is part of our "water of life."

What other "water" stories and ideas could be part of your BIG SPLASH this year?


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Single vs Multiple "Rally" Events ?

Traditionally, Sunday Schools and churches thought in terms of a "singular" event to celebrate or "kick-off" the Sunday School year. The singular "Rally Day" is a good example of this kind of planning.

But some educators and creative types have been challenging this kind of "eggs in one basket" approach, noting that many of our members no longer attend every week (for a variety of reasons) and would miss a one-time event --the kind we might hope would re-energize their commitment.

So instead, some are starting to think in terms of "Rally Days:"   a renewal theme that runs through more than one Sunday in order to create many opportunities for our members and children to catch the excitement.

This does not mean creating a series of "big" events and it doesn't necessarily exclude the planning of at least one "big" event, such as the "Make a Splash" water-themed event described above. Rather, it seeks to provide numerous and varied ways people can get excited about a renewed and renewing season of learning.

Here's an example of a three-week "Rally Days" series to renew the commitment and celebrate the return to Sunday School.

Week One's Rally Day

Make a Splash—the water-themed big event described above connected to baptism in the worship service. (Here are some baptism suggestions you could include in worship.)

Week Two's Rally Day

Worship with a "Compass and Guide" theme of getting lost and finding your way or looking for treasure. Explore surprising directions in the Bible.  Conclude with a set of instructions that leads people to a picnic, or provide a geocache course people could follow that afternoon. (Here is a "Let's Go" treasure hunt you could use.)

Week Three's Rally Day

Renew Our Classrooms by setting up a supplies in advance and asking members to bring it as a wrapped gift-offering to be unwrapped by the kids during the children's sermon. Theme the rest of the service on the topic of "supplies faithful people need." Follow that a workday to refresh, clean, repaint, and redecorate a classroom or two; clean out and organize the supply closets; sharpen all the pencils. Include a blessing of the paint and painters as well as the classrooms in worship.

Along with these "Rally Days" activities, the congregation could also:

  • Refresh its "welcome" to visitors
  • Renew its signage, landscaping, and website.
  • Recommit by signing up for certain needs around the church, including greeting, teaching, helping in the food pantry, and singing with the worship team.


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Thoughts for a "Let's Go!" Set-Sail event or theme:

The metaphors of raising sails and catching the breeze are akin to the renewal and "Let's Go!" theme, and they are both biblical and great visuals as themes for your renewal event. Jesus said "GO!" to his disciples in Matthew 28's Great Commission and the WIND of Pentecost inspired them and blew them in new directions.

When the early Christians used a boat as a symbol for the church, it was never a rowboat; it was always a sailboat. That is because on the day of Pentecost, with “a sound like a rushing wind,” Jesus’ promise of power became a reality.


The church is often depicted as a "boat" in church art, a place of refuge and togetherness; but a boat is also a tool to get us where God wants us to go.

Get your boat out of drydock.

Sails need to be raised and trimmed to catch the breeze.

Set your course and fill your sails.

Oriental Trading Sailboats

You can plan a sailboat race at a local pond or pool. Kids can make sailboats out of newspaper or you can buy toy boats from places like Oriental Trading, such as the ones shown at right.

Use a leaf blower to provide wind to your sailboat race. The waves, sinking, going off-course, and even tipping over are all metaphors you can run with.

Bring a sailboat into the church parking lot and invite the kids to get on it for a lesson. Put a small sailboat, like a sunfish, at the entrance of the church or in your sanctuary.

Read and discuss "Sailboat Church: Helping Your Church Rethink Its Mission and Practice" (versus a rowboat church), a book by Rev Joan Gray, former PCUSA moderator. (You can preview the book in this excerpt.)

SailThemedEventSetSail theme graphic

And don't miss the related Sunday school lesson ideas to tie into this event if you would like the first rotation of the school year to reflect your Rally Day/Back to School theme.


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Last edited by Amy Crane

Setting Sail sounds like a great way to kick off a new school year, especially when you are encouraging the congregation to GO!

Folding paper boats is fun and easy, but they don't float very long. Here are a few other boat building ideas I found that the children could make or the families could make together:

Water bottle boats made from two empty water bottles, cardboard, and duct tape


Cork sailboats made from 3 corks, rubber bands, toothpick, and small fun-foam sail


Additionally, the boat ideas suggested above could be part of a summer splash event (or series of events).


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Last edited by Amy Crane

Sails and sailboats make a colorful Rally Day Launch Party theme.


A sailboat in dry dock is a good metaphor about
needing to scrape the barnacles off and rig your sails.


You may have sailboats in your congregation that can be trailered in for your event.

You may also have some toy boats that can be used in a lesson.

Enjoy this "set sail" inspired song for kids

courtesy of the "Faith Through the Roof" software game in which Peter and a young follower arrive in Capernaum just in time to help the man find his way to Jesus.


Here are the lyrics and chords:

We'll Follow the Son

(chords: D, Dsus, G, A)
a song by Neil MacQueen, originally produced for "Faith Through the Roof" software that teaches the "Man Let Down Through the Roof" story from Mark 2 and Luke 5 that took place alongside the Sea of Galilee. The tune and vocals rise and fall like a sailboat gliding through the waves.

Verse 1
The Captain is calling, young women, young men climb aboard. A new wind is blowing, set sail! for the distant shore.

And we will ride the waves together, while we are still young, we'll follow the son.

Verse 2
Bring others to know him, seek justice, do mercy, and love. Remember your life is a gift from high up above.

And we will ride the waves together, while we are still young, we'll follow the son.

The captain is calling, there's work to be done. With friends and for strangers the kingdom is to come!

Verse 3
The Captain is calling, young women, young men climb aboard. A new wind is blowing, set sail for the distant shore.

Refrain: And we will ride the waves together, while we are still young, we'll follow the son (x2)


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Fall Kickoff Ideas for Teaching About the Bible

Renewing our hearts for learning God's Word

Sunday School is how churches share the major stories and themes of the Bible. It's not worship or fellowship, or a soccer team. It's unapologetically focused on learning the life-changing story and values you just can't get anywhere else. And we teach it in such a way that they'll both remember the Word, love it, and keep on reading it.

Through our love for learning the stories of scripture, we help children discover what it means to call Jesus their savior and how to have a lifelong relationship with him. That's why we come to Sunday School.

That makes your renewal or kickoff a great time to

  • Emphasize learning about the Bible
  • Give out Bibles and Bible storybooks to students
  • Hold a family night gameshow about "what's in your Bible"
  • Review the upcoming stories the children will be learning.
  • Preach sermons and give children's sermons about the Bible
  • Have the preacher make a commitment to preach or deliver children's sermons about the lessons children are learning in Sunday School.
  • Invite young people to be scripture readers in worship
  • Start a "Big Stories of the Bible" program that has all the kids, adults, and worship services focusing on a number of key stories throughout the year at the same time. This could be a set of 8 or 10 "Big Story Sundays" throughout the year, each with a special event or theme.

Kids love making book covers, and they can easily make a Bible book cover for

  • their own Bible or Bible storybook
  • their family's Bible
  • or their classroom Bibles
  • And book covers make a great gift to remind fellow church members to study theirs!
  • A scripture reading challenge made to the kids or the congregation

Make a brown paper bag Bible cover with a secret message!

Rather than a "bling" Bible cover, a brown paper bag Bible cover reminds us that

  • God is a brown paper bag kind of God (what do we mean by that?)
  • God's word is like groceries for the soul (how does the Bible feed us?)
  • The metaphor of "food for the soul" opens up all sorts of teaching possibilities.

Here's one kind of brown paper bag Bible cover that can have a hidden message in it that's fun to open:

  1. First, poke a very small hole in the middle of the front of your paper bag Bible cover.
  2. Next, copy or write a message on a separate piece of paper, then use white glue to make a ring of glue behind the front cover of your brown paper bag Bible cover underneath the hole.  Make the circle a little bit wider than the message on your white paper and center the white paper's message inside that ring of glue.
  3. Then when you give the cover to someone, invite them to discover why reading the Bible is so important (or whatever your message is about) by carefully PEELING BACK the center of the book cover to reveal the message. Encourage them to leave the strips of paper in place as a reminder of the gift.

    What other messages could be on your Bible covers?

Speaking of where your treasure is...

Where is your Bible right now?

Go to's "About the Bible" lesson ideas for more ideas.


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Here are four ideas for Rally Day/ renewal fellowship activities that can adapted to your church:

1. Take Me Out to the Ballgame. Many towns have a local minor league baseball team -- or, if you really want to emphasize a “Kickoff” theme, perhaps a football club. Have the church purchase a block of seats so families can sit together; folks cover their own food and beverages costs. Many venues will display your church name & logo on the Jumbotron. It’s a fun afternoon or evening activity that’s a great way for church families to be together outside the church building. (If “the beautiful game” of soccer is popular in your area, consider live-streaming a soccer game in your parish hall. Qatar hosts the World Cup from November 21-December 18th. In the opening round, USA plays Ukraine on opening day, November 21st; England on November 25th, and Iran on November 29th.)

Yes, we are called to be disciples of the Good News. But every once in a while, nothing beats a good old-fashioned ball game. Fireworks are fun, too!

2. Your Church’s Feast Day/Celebration Day/Make Your Own Special Day. Select a day that’s important to your church, lift it up, and celebrate it. Perhaps your namesake’s special feast day – for example, St. Clare is August 11th; St. John the Baptist is August 29th. Is your choir returning after a summer break? Consider opening your doors and host a concert for your community to enjoy.

Thanks to Hallmark, every day can be special. Did you know that August 2nd is National Coloring Book Day? During church school on a Sunday morning, have children draw pictures of the sanctuary, nave, parish hall, Sunday School classroom, etc. Make a booklet of the drawings on card stock, and hand them out for all to color. September 21st is National Pancake Day. Sounds like a great reason to host a parish-wide, Wednesday evening pancake supper – exactly five months to the day before your church’s likely next pancake supper on February 21, 2023 – Shrove Tuesday.

3. Vacation Bible School/Summer Camp Wrap-Up Dinner. Are you hosting a summer camp? End the week with a Wrap-Up Dinner and invite the whole parish, not just families of campers. We’re running Cokesbury’s “Food Truck Party: On a Roll with God” next month, and a real food truck is coming on the evening that camp concludes. It will be a great way for campers to share what they’ve learned -- by presenting a puppet show and by showcasing their artwork (one wall of the parish hall will become an art exhibit) and science experiments.

4. Host a Pumpkin Carving Evening. Host a full evening of fun and fellowship to show that believing in God and Jesus is kind of like being a pumpkin. Have plenty of supplies on hand, like scoops, votive candle, fire-starters, etc. (extra pumpkins, too) for folks to carve their own pumpkins. At dusk, we lined all the pumpkins along a stone wall for passing cars to admire. We provided pizza, and we showed “It’s the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown.” We adapted a lesson plan found at True Money Saver.Com


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