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Ideas for Summer Sunday School and Children's Ministry

Creative programming ideas from our community

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This topic is a collection of great ideas and resources for summer ministry from our creative community. Many of these ideas were shared at our May 2022 Summer Ideas Roundtable Coffee Chat. Read the summary and watch the YouTube video of the roundtable! (more about that below)

Please reply and post your own favorite ways to make summer programming for children and families at your church special!



wormyBeachRelated Summer topics
  at Rotation.org:


Lessons, resources, and program ideas elsewhere at Rotation.org that include content specifically written with summer in mind.

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Last edited by Amy Crane
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Drama in the Woods: a summer camp experience

Dramatics

NOTE: I did not follow my own rule: puppet and drama workshops are not intended to result in a performance. Sometimes rules are meant to be broken.

Camp Feliciana program overview:

I used rotation.org resources for a storytelling, puppet, and drama workshop that was a daily part of a weeklong overnight summer camp for the Presbytery of South Louisiana. Each day of camp had a focus Bible story or theme, which was explored in a morning small group Bible study. After that, campers had a choice of several different workshops or activities that they signed up for at the beginning of the week (things like art, drama, nature, service). In the Storytelling, Puppet, and Drama Workshop, campers creatively interpreted the Bible story or theme for an evening performance. The campers were not required to memorize “lines,” but they did learn the story “by heart” as they worked with it that morning. We had a brief rehearsal immediately after dinner before the rest of the campers arrived for the day’s performance as part of the evening activities. (On Friday night the performance was part of the closing worship service.) There were two sessions of camp, so the five workshops were repeated (and improved upon) the second week of camp.

Camp Feliciana Storytelling, Puppet, and Drama Workshop - My Proposal:

The goal of the Storytelling, Puppet, and Drama Workshop is to encourage the campers to creatively interpret the day’s Bible story through performance. In a 1½ hour session, the end product is not a polished performance, but a creative interpretation of a Bible story that promotes understanding for both the actors and the audience. Emphasis is not on the facts, but on understanding the feelings, thoughts, and motivation of Bible characters and also on the sequence of events, with a bit of personal life application added.

The campers will not be required to memorize “lines,” but they will need to learn the story “by heart.” That is, they will be able to retell the story in their own words. Some may want to spend their “FOB time” (Flat on Back, rest time) that day reviewing and studying and thinking about the story. Talent is not necessary for a quality experience in this workshop. However, a willingness to work with a small group to share the day’s story in front of the larger group is necessary.

The story and performance medium for each day’s activities will be selected in advance, but the campers will use their imaginations to create the production for the evening’s performance. There will be a brief rehearsal immediately after dinner before the rest of the campers arrive for the performance. (On Friday night the performance will be part of the closing worship service.)

Workshop time may include making props, puppets, and scenery as well as studying and internalizing the Bible story/ies. The troupe for each day is limited to 10 people. Each day we start from scratch, so it is not necessary to participate each day. Nothing is repeated so participating more than one day also is not a problem.

Bible stories were selected based on the overarching curriculum used for the week at camp:

  • 2000: Belonging to God: A First Catechism (PCUSA)
  • 2001: No Matter What (New Earth Christian Resources for the Outdoors)
  • 2002: The StoryTeller Series: Stories Jesus Told (VBS curriculum from Christian Board of Publication, 1996)

My lesson source: the workshop techniques varied for each of the five days of camp and were gleaned from lessons at rotation.org and from the source curricula listed above. We included:

  • Puppet shows (including making puppets - instructions for making the puppets are attached below)
  • Object theater puppets
  • Readers’ theater
  • Clowning
  • Storytelling (where the participants learned a parable and retold it)
  • Creative dramatics (guided drama)
  • Interviews/news report
  • Creative movement


Some of my lessons are posted at rotation.org. (Others were adapted from lessons already at the site, so I did not bother reposting; and still others relied on scripts from other sources that were copyrighted, so I could not share them at this site.)

Budget: I was paid a very small honorarium for planning and leading this workshop. I used costumes and props that I had. The camp paid for consumables (supplies for making puppets and props) and made copies of scripts. Puppet stages were tables with tablecloths or big cardboard boxes.

Staffing: I led the workshop (which may be why, looking back, my lesson plans were outlines and not well fleshed out...). One or two camp counselors were assigned to assist me each morning. (They did not prepare – I’m not sure if they even read the lesson in advance….. It still worked.)

Useful applications: In addition to a module at an overnight summer camp, this type of activity could also be used for a Saturday morning program or could be a module in a weeklong arts camp (where art workshops and music workshops are also part of the activities).

This was before the days of digital cameras, but here are some some scanned snapshots to give you a feel for the setting and the variety. (click pictures to enlarge)

ClowningCreativeMovementDramaDrama2PuppetShowReadersTheaterSimpleHandPuppets1SimpleHandPuppets2SimpleRodPuppets

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Last edited by Amy Crane

Easy Summer Sunday School Planning

Be calm, be flexible, keep it simple, and have fun!

Do workshops (lessons) that require minimal supplies (especially ones that you already have on hand) and need minimal planning and preparation.

If you are a small church and numbers are totally unpredictable over the summer and like me you can expect Sundays with zero attendance, don't go to the trouble of planning lessons that require you to purchase supplies (like: Art or Cooking) or generally require a large number of kids (like Drama or Games).

My favourite thing to do is to review stories I covered in the past 10 months. Easy ways to do that are:

1) Computer(s)Computer Workshop Sign

You can do computer lessons with only one or two kids.  There are 18 software titles available, as a FREE download by Supporting Members of Rotation.org. Registered members can view descriptions here https://www.rotation.org/forum...r-children-and-youth

Tips

  • If you don’t have a computer lab, use a laptop and a projector.
  • Have all Software Guides in a single binder, for easy access.
  • Keep an up-to-date list of what titles are installed on computer(s), including any special notes to run that software (such as requires CD, need to change display size, etc.).

a) Fall of Jericho

  • can use this game software with any Bible story
  • you create the quiz - inputting your questions, plus your four multiple choice answers
  • If you don’t have a computer lab, project it, you can have up to 4 teams/groups playing
  • for multiple players, I divide the kids into teams, they can confer before selecting from the multiple choice answers
  • mix non-readers with readers, and kids can take turns reading the questions and possible answers or the teacher can do that.
  • first team to reach Jericho knocks the walls down. Fun!

b) Cal & Marty Scripture Memory Game

  • this software can be used with any Bible story
  • type in scripture verse (kids will scramble, then have to reorder)
  • with each scripture verse you can add 3 quiz questions, with multiple choice answers
  • kid's can work in group to unscramble verse(s) and answer quizzes
  • again older kids can assist younger children with reading, also recommend you do some simplified verses for younger children. They can also click on Cal or Marty for a hint, which will be fun for them.
  • this is a great way to review memory verses from the year.

c) Bongo Loves the Bible

  • features 8 different games "about the Bible" set in a jungle, cave, and canyon landscape through which students navigate "Bongo" the Bible-loving orangutan. It's games include: "Basic Bible Knowledge" quiz-games, a game about "What is the Bible and Why Do We Need It," "Books of the Bible," and "How the Bible Came to Be."

  • For fun decorate the room you'll use with a jungle theme for the entire summer.

    Computer Bongo Decorating

2) Movies

You'll want 3 or 4 kids minimum. Watch those videos again from the past year OR if you are like me, and have a large video collection, choose to show a different video for those same stories. You'll need to create a list of stories you did and what video you showed, and list what other videos that are on your shelf cover the same story.  OR Ask the kids what they'd like to watch. OR Check out some other ideas below:

Tip: How to Connect Your Laptop, Cellphone or Tablet to a TV or Projector in the Classroom https://www.rotation.org/topic...blet-to-tv-projector

a) Superbook

  • Seasons ONE thru THREE are now available to watch for free at https://us-en.superbook.cbn.com/episodes#EpisodeHome just requires signing up for their free membership.
  • Tip: Always preview the Superbook videos, before showing them to kids, in case there are sections you may wish to skip over. For example: Teach Us To Pray -- has disturbing scenes of a "demon" possessed boy.

b) Show a collection of DVDs on the same theme. Examples:

  • VeggieTales (New) Fruit of the Spirit
    Have not seen these yet, they appear to be 69 minutes:
    - Fruit of the Spirit Stories Vol. 1: Love, Joy, Peace – DVD (2021)
    - Fruit of the Spirit Stories Vol. 2: Patience, Kindness, Goodness (2021)
    - Fruit of the Spirit Stories Vol. 3: Faithfulness, Gentleness, Self-Control (2022)
  • 10Cs (The Ten Commandments for Kids) 5 DVD Set
    The stories take place in the Sinai desert during the Exodus, through the adventures of Seth, an 11-year old boy, God's Ten Commandments come to life for children ages 6-11. Each of the five Bible videos teaches children how to apply the Ten Commandments to their daily lives (each DVD’s storyline covers two commandments). Nest Learning Website - DVD Set

3) Story Table (Lego)

Bring in Lego from home (Playmobil, etc. also will work) and have the kids recreate Bible scenes; works for all Bible stories. Work on tables or the floor.

Lego Workshop Faith Through the RoofJoseph in the Pit

Check out the Story Table / Lego Forum here for more details and ideas on using this type of workshop.Good Samaritan Story Table

I generally do lessons on the fly, during the summer due to attendance. One Sunday I had a single 5 year old. That particular Sunday the Children's Story, done by the pastor, was on the Good Samaritan. So when we went downstairs we headed to the Story Table and she recreated scenes from the story and took photos.

Take those same photos and use them in the computer lab, we use Kid Pix 3 (Version 4 of the newest version 3D version, will work as well).

Computer Workshop Lego Photos Slideshow using Kid Pix

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Summer Music Camp

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Our church sponsors a Summer Music Camp the third week of June each year with an attendance of around 70 kids.  The main purpose of the weeklong event (held 9:00 am to 2:30 pm) is to learn and present a musical production (based on a story from the Bible) to the public at a Friday night performance.

We utilize musicals from www.littlebigstuff.com as the basis for our program.

Little Big Stuff

Outside of the musical itself (music, script, choreography videos, promotional logos, etc.) we have to create the rest of the week's experience to fulfill our secondary goal which is to teach the Bible story that the musical is based on to our kids.  That Bible story becomes the basis of our Bible storytelling, crafts, games and snacks.

For example, two years ago we did the musical "Jonah's Druthers" that was based on the book of Jonah.  We utilized lesson plans in Rotation.org to help teach the story of Jonah, especially the lesson, "Prayer Inside the Belly of the Whale."  This learning center featured actually going into the belly of the whale and leaning about the prayer that Jonah prayed, and how we too can pray to God when we are in the middle of difficult situations.  Kids wrote their own prayers with glow in the dark ink and placed their prayers with Jonah's in the belly of the whale.

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Jonah prayer 1

We teach the story of Bible by using an animated Bible DVD.  For Jonah, we used the video, "Jonah" from the Testament: The Bible In Animation series.

The story of Jonah was also used to inspire the selection of games like "Hungry, Hungry Whale"

DSC_0067

Music Camp 2021 Banner

This past year our musical was "The Lions, The Switch And The Warm Robes."  It was based on the book of Daniel and featured the stories of "Daniel and the Lion's Den" and  "Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego."  We utilized the corresponding DVD's from the Superbook series.

The Rotation art project "Flaming Votive Holders" inspired one of the week's art projects.

Music Camp 1

Even the snacks that the kids shared each day were themed by the stories of Daniel and the Fiery Furnace.

lion pancake

Music Camp has been an effective outreach ministry and feeder program to help bring new families into our church.

2021 Music Camp cast

2021 Music Camp




Moderator's note: For more detail on Music Camp (and more pictures), see the recording of Ron's presentation during our May Zoom Coffee Chat.

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Last edited by Amy Crane

Are you looking for ideas to get outside this summer and "Engage with God in His Creation"? Our church really loved "Outdoor Worship" and "Worship in the Woods" by https://engageworship.org/

The program can be used for worship, vacation bible camp, or even for mid week groups.  It offers 10 weeks of material that can be easily condensed into one week or spread out over the whole summer.  Each "week/theme" provides: short worship ideas/scripts, activities, quizzes,  and information about the topic.

Worship in the Woods

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Last edited by Neil MacQueen

Bible XP (experience)

bookshelfWe did a summer series in Sunday school at the church I was at a few years ago, to give the regular teachers a three-month break. I did all the teaching. The Bible XP (experience) used some of the information we found at rotation.org to help with the planning: About the Bible Rotation - Family Bible Classes.

We presented older elementary students with Bibles and spent the summer getting to know the contents and themes of the Bible. Over the course of the summer we focused for a week on a section of the Bible (Pentateuch, History, Minor Prophets, Gospels, etc.). For each section there was a lesson that included the history of that section, who wrote it, why it was written, and where is Jesus in that section. The children were given highlighters (their choice of color) and a journal with fill in the blank information to go along with their Bibles. They highlighted a key verse in each book of their Bibles.

The goal was to make it all the way through the Bible that summer – but we didn’t quite make it. This was a new church plant and summer attendance was lower as people were visiting their “home churches,” so the 7-10 kids who did attend that summer got some good personal attention and the study went at their pace.

The series had an XP level program where the students earned points and could “level up” by doing things such as bringing their Bible on Sunday, filling out their journal, and memorizing a weekly Bible verse. As they leveled up they got to pick the song or a game; there was a prize at the end of summer. (Bringing the phone with an online Bible did not count – the goal was to encourage children to get used to marking up and using their Bibles.)

Participating students’ ages were completed second grade through sixth. Youth were helpers, and sometimes parents helped, too (and parents discovered that helping teach Sunday school isn’t that hard).

Weekly Format:

  • Introduction – “We are talking about [this part of the Bible] this week, which includes these books….” We would talk about who wrote the book(s) and why; other background information was shared to help the kids know and fall in love with the Bible.
  • Then the students would highlight 2-3 verses in each book in the section (those passages were also in their journals), and we would work on one memory verse for the week. The list was adapted from this lesson set.
  • witb-logoSometimes we also incorporated Phil Vischer's What’s in the Bible videos. You can see outlines here: https://www.rotation.org/topic...-s-in-the-bible-dvds
  • We would end with an activity related to that week’s books. We picked out simple games and other activities from rotation.org that tied in to a week’s Bible books’ stories and that would work for a small group (because attendance varied widely each week).

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Below is the FULL 1 hour Zoom conversation our members held in our May Rotation.org "Coffee Chat" about Summer Sunday School and Summer Children's Ministry. Lots of great ideas and resources were shared!  You can also view it on YouTube at https://youtu.be/fo8Y0KbL1As

You can also READ and print what several of our Coffee Chat members talked about in the video by going to Summer Ministry Ideas: Sunday school, VBS, musicals, camps, special events in the park

VIDEO: Summer Ideas: a Rotation.org Coffee Chat Roundtable
May 24, 2022




Here are the approximate start times for main topics discussed in the video. Each is followed by questions and follow up comments from the presenter.

0:00:17: Ron Shifley – a great music camp idea with lots of photos

0:15:00: Luanne Payne – Simple and stress-free summer Sunday school

0:21:30: Simple Ten Commandments ideas for summer lessons from Heather Margerison with added info from Neil MacQueen and Ron Shifley, including kid-friendly Bible software that's free to use.

0:26:00: Amy Crane– Drama in the woods  

0:32:04: Camp, retreat, and camp "theme" ideas from Neil MacQueen, Luanne Payne, and Heather Margerison

0:39:45: Robin Stewart – “Summer FUNday School”

0:46:10: Ian Grimm – "Bible XP" (Bible Experience, lessons/events walking through the Bible)

0:54:15: Heather Margerison – Worship in the Woods and events around the theme of Water. "Jerusalema" video reminder.

1:06:15: Ian answers a question about his Bible XP idea

Last edited by Neil MacQueen

Summer Sunday School and Children's Ministry Ideas

Summer Sunday School and Children's Ministry Ideas from our Roundtable Coffee Chat

Meeting Summary

Below are some highlights from our informative May 2022 roundtable. You can view the full video of the roundtable on our YouTube Channel at https://youtu.be/fo8Y0KbL1As

Ron Shifley shared that his church does not offer children’s Sunday school during summer, and the church’s focus shifts to special programs for children. He shared information about Summer Music Camp. Details here.

Some of Ron's comments:

  • They have been happy with the musicals purchased from publisher Little Big Stuff. https://littlebigstuff.com/
  • Camp is from 9 to 2:30 for 5 days for elementary aged kids (K-6). $35 per person; it is a self-sustaining ministry program.
  • About 70 kids from church and community attend (advertised in the local schools).
  • The week is not just about producing a musical for the Friday night performance, but also includes Bible story learning using games, crafts and other lessons gleaned from rotation.org.
  • Planning begins in January. Lots of volunteers (including teens) are involved in all aspects.


Luanne Payne shared how attendance drops during summer, so her church’s Sunday school stops for the summer in June – for the regular volunteers. But she keeps Sunday school going in a more simple and informal way for children who do show up, using computer games, videos, and a story table to review stories from the past year. See her summary sharing how she is ready every week to lead a simple lesson here.

Neil MacQueen and Heather Margerison reacted to Luanne’s presentation with some simple ways to teach the Ten Commandments that could be used along with the resources she suggested. Links:

Amy Crane shared Drama in the Woods, a summer sleepaway camp program using drama and puppet lessons that could be adapted for use in other settings such as Saturday morning programs and art camps.

We discussed camp and how regional church camps are becoming rare these days – there are opportunities to have a day camp experience at church, and churchwide overnight campouts. Heather shared her experience with intergenerational weekend camp that was a great community builder; they had camp games, worship, crafts, and lots of eating; participants were assigned “chores” and everyone worked together to make the weekend a success. Luanne shared information on her quarterly girls camping weekends. And Neil talked about several different types of camps taking place at churches.

Robin Stewart shared a summer Sunday school adaptation for smaller crowds that gives families a fun reason to attend church when they are in town: Summer FUNday School. This summer Sunday school format still digs into Bible stories, but also includes special fun activities in combined age groups. Work was spread between volunteers and leadership from different program areas so that all got a break for some of the summer. Teens get experience helping lead and mentoring the younger children.

Ian Grimm talked about a series his church did one summer to give the regular teachers a three-month break and Ian did all the teaching. The Bible XP (based on the desire of kids to move up to the next level in games and things) used some of the information from this lesson set to help with the planning. The older elementary students were presented with Bibles and spent the summer getting to know the contents and themes of the Bible. Over the course of the summer they focused for a week or two on a section of the Bible (Pentateuch, History, Minor Prophets, Gospels, etc.). For each section there was a lesson that included the history of that section, who wrote it, why it was written, and where is Jesus in that section. They highlighted a key verse in each book of their Bibles.

Ensuing discussion was that this idea would work well for a rite of passage (presenting a Bible and recognizing those who completed it).

Other resources that would be useful in planning a through-the-Bible program like this can be found at https://www.rotation.org/forum...e-books-of-the-bible

Heather Margerison shared an outdoor curriculum she plans to use this summer called Worship in the Woods from Engage Worship. It is a reasonably priced digital package that gives gathering activities and ideas and also includes reflections and crafts and things to look at in nature, and it keeps bringing it back to scripture. She intends to use this resource this summer on Sunday mornings for outdoor worship and also for weekly half-day Wednesday programs (in place of a VBS week). The Wednesday programs will expand on what was done on Sunday. (There is a companion book called Outdoor Worship that also has interesting worship pieces that tie into nature. And there are some free materials at the site that you can check out.) They also are doing drumming with the youth. And they are continuing to practice their “Jerusalema” dance steps. (If you don’t know what that is – I didn’t – here is an article); it is a worship song that became a TikTok dance craze. This outdoor programming works better for her church’s current older kids (biggest group is 8th grade) than Illustrated Ministry’s Compassion Camp that they have used in the past.

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FUNday school

FUNday School is a summer Sunday morning program designed to encourage the attendance of children and youth AND to share responsibility among staff members and volunteers. This is employed in a medium to large size church but the principles could apply to any size.

The basics:

  • All ages (K5 - gr 12) meet during Sunday School hour in a common room usually designated for youth (gr 7-12)
  • FUN (engaging) activities are at the center of each Sunday
  • The plan is very relationship-oriented
    • Younger kids love being in the space of older kids
    • Old kids love assuming leadership roles
    • Staff share responsibility which allows some time off for each leader
    • Parents and other church adults are willing to engage as helpers for just one Sunday (which often leads to more volunteering) This is a fantastic entry point.
    • Parents love the one-stop drop-off as well as encouragement for casual attire.
  • There is one compelling theme with supporting Bible stories (Super Heroes theme for example with each Sunday offering activities for different Bible heroes) throughout the summer.

Morning schedule:

  • Each Sunday begins with independent activities (such as puzzles, games, and art) while kids gather
    • At the same time, the older kids are briefed about their leadership parts for the day
    • Snacks are often included in the gathering time to mimic a typical youth Sunday morning
  • A large group welcome and opening include an adult leader sharing the verse or story of the day and youth interacting with the children in a variety of ways. For example, “believe it or not” type of response activity or a skit that involves the “audience”.
  • Small groups with youth leading the children include a discussion time and hands-on activities such as making a paper prayer chain.
  • Large group time with high action type games (relay for example) in the gym is the last part of the morning
  • Closing and preview/invitation to next week.

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Summer Scheduling in the Workshop Rotation Model

Summer.Sunday,School,SunLike traditional Sunday Schools, some Workshop Rotation-style Sunday Schools take a break for all or part of the summer. Other continue teaching throughout the summer months, but often in a modified format due to lower attendance and reduced availability of teachers.

Here are some very common summer Sunday School adaptations and considerations for those using the Workshop Rotation Model:

Summer Sunday School Workshop Rotation Smilie Instead of running three workshops simultaneously in the Rotation style, you might only run one or two broadly-graded workshops during these low attendance times of the year --picking your workshops and lessons accordingly for broad appeal.

Summer Sunday School Workshop Rotation Smilie Instead of teaching "major" Bible stories during the summer, many Rotation Sunday Schools schedule "second tier"* Bible stories like "Paul and Silas in Jail."

Summer Sunday School Workshop Rotation Smilie Instead of spending four weeks on Paul and Silas in Jail, you might only spend two weeks on this story during the summer.

Summer Sunday School Workshop Rotation Smilie Instead of using a Drama or Game Workshop that needs 4 or 5 students, you might choose a Cooking Workshop that can be done with 1 or 2 kids, or use a laptop to play some of the free Bible software for kids at Rotation.org.

Summer Sunday School Workshop Rotation Smilie Sometimes it's fun to pick a "wet" story like "Jonah and the Whale" that you can do outside and use to attract kids to your summer classes.

Summer Sunday School Workshop Rotation Smilie Depending on your schedule, you might use certain Sundays for "outings" or special events to give rooms a rest (or use the off-time to redecorate).

Summer Sunday School Workshop Rotation Smilie Summer is also a good time to revisit previously taught lessons with "game show quizzes," and replaying some of the games found in the software that you've previously taught with. Reinforcing fun is great for long-term retention.

SummerSmilieSome Workshop-style Sunday Schools introduce new workshops or variations on their workshops, such as the innovative "Camp Bible Wahoo!" themed spaces that were only possible because other groups weren't using the rooms.




*"Second Tier" refers to the prioritization of Bible stories that Rotation Modelers must undertake because they are spending multiple weeks on each story. Second tier stories are not "less important," rather, we're simply recognizing that we can't teach them all if we want any breadth. A first tier story would something like the Parable of the Good Samaritan or the Exodus, whereas a second-tier story might be Gideon or the Man with the Withered Hand. You decide! ...and you can see many lists of "top tier" and second-tier story suggestions in our "creating a scope and sequence" article here.

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Ideas for Low Attendance Sunday School in the Late Summer

(and early August startup)

They don't call August the "dog days" for nothing.

  • In many end-of-summer Sunday Schools, attendance is the lowest it will be all year.
  • And in communities where schools start back in early August, some Sunday Schools also make an "early restart" instead of waiting for the traditional "fall kickoff" to begin.

What to do?

  • Many just ride it out, tossing a few crafts and Bible verses at the kids waiting for "the return." The problem with this is that those kids who DO attend don't get our best effort.
  • Some of us do special things during these "dog days" to reward those who attend during low-attendance Sundays, and encourage others to make the effort (and be rewarded!).

Here are a few great ideas from our "late summer successes" archive and experience. Feel free to add yours.

It's never wrong to review and refresh previously taught content --that's how our brains and hearts remember. And kids like fun refreshers.

Cherry-pick the fun ideas/activities from 3 or 4 of the previous year's favorite lessons and repeat them.

If you're using software, repeat an interactive story you used this past year and play the game within that story. For example, the Elijah-Jonah software has half a dozen games embedded in it that reinforce the story (and some include short quizzes).

Sing the song again from that favorite lesson. Or sing several of the songs if your lesson time used a bunch this past year.

Plan a "Music Sunday" for making music with fun instruments and playing some of your Sunday School's favorites. If you have mostly older kids, get them to prep a song or two and "take it on the road" down to the preschool class.

Set up a "Review Gameshow" with 20 questions drawn from last year's lessons. The gameshow can be "Q & A" style, Jeopardy style. Adjust difficulty of questions, number of answers offered, and offer hints to make this broadly graded and not too difficult.

Create a "trail of ten questions" hidden around your building or church property. The kids follow your clues to discover where you have hidden the questions that they must then answer on their answer sheet before arriving at a special fun location for a snack and review. (Said the contributor of this idea: "I didn't hide them in difficult places. Instead, I wrote clues like "Get a drink of cold water from this fountain and answer my question about Jesus' baptism." The kids liked this so much we did it two Sundays in a row.")

Have a "LOW ATTENDANCE BACK UP PLAN" for your small or broadly graded Sunday School in case the few who do attend are all older or younger, or widely separated in age.

This is where having a couple of the "What's in the Bible?" videos comes in handy. They are solid Sunday School teaching in a fun format that grades 1-6 will enjoy. Pick an episode that REINFORCES lessons you have already taught in the previous year. For example, if you did a unit on "Psalms," then pick DVD #8 "Wise Writings" Episode 1, Chapter 5. Then add one of the creative activities from our Psalms forum, such as a Psalm 23 game.

Cooking lesson projects tend to adjust really well to low attendance and wide age range. Pick a favorite Cooking Workshop for a Bible story you've already taught and have it's ingredients and supplies ready to go in your church kitchen for "that" Sunday. Pick your Bible story and look up its Cooking Workshop suggestions in our Lesson Forums!

Here's a special "meaning of Elijah's name in Hebrew" cookie from our Writing Team's Elijah Cooking Workshop

Have a Backup Activity that involves doing something around the church.

Said the contributor of this idea: "In my small church I've had the occasion where only one or two students showed up. Just in case, I always knew of a "job" or two around the church that needed to be done and called it "Serve Sunday." I've had a first grader go with me to help get the coffee cups and cookies ready (the regular volunteer understood our need). I've had a fourth-grader go with me to pick up trash around our city church. I've had two sisters help me clean and sort the art closet (they loved that).   

Remember to take photos and end with a snack!  The trick is to make it feel like a legitimate activity and not a "last minute - because I'm the only one here" filler.

All that said... Don't be afraid to plan ahead to lie "fallow" for a few weeks. Even God rested on the 7th day. Just be sure to announce these Sundays in advance, and make sure you use the time to rest up for something wonderful that's coming, and not the "same old" program kids and teachers needed a break from.

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  • Question Trail activity
  • Low Attendance Sundays in Sunday School
  • Elijah's Name Cookie
Last edited by Neil MacQueen

*See the end note about this photo

Owen-Tablet

Why not go "online" or "virtual" with some of your teaching during the summer?

During the summer people have more options to get outside, travel, and do special things on the weekend. This impacts their church and Sunday School attendance even more. As well, many people still view the summer as "time off" from church.

Yet our kids are still online and tend to have more free time during the summer. Many are also missing their church friends. The problem is they can't drive themselves to church, and most churches do little to reach and teach kids where they are.

So why not offer some special (and good) virtual ~ online content to your students during the summer?  In-person + virtual attendance, entirely online attendance, or sharing content they can view on their own schedule.

  • Host a Zoom class, a Zoom picnic, a Zoom VBS, a Zoom "pool party" themed learning event, a Zoom breakfast  (all of which should include a mini-lesson).
  • Email a PDF to parents that has links in it to your chosen online content that they can share with their kids on THEIR own time.
  • Keep it short.
  • Feature a Bible video short and brief discussion.
  • Make it visually interesting and interactive (no talking heads).
  • Include "what you've been doing this summer."
  • Advertise it with Facebook, email, and day of the event text messaging.
  • Set it up ahead of time to have a family join from their vacation spot!
  • Host it from a fun location, like the park or local fountain kids can play in.
  • Set up the "live broadcast" from a linchpin family's home.
  • Invite a special guest star appearance, such as a local High School sports celebrity to speak with the kids.
  • Record it and post it for later viewing by those who couldn't attend live.

Doesn't have to be every Sunday. Can be broadly graded. Can include parents.

Supporting Members at Rotation.org have a special forum of topics, resources, and ideas about "ONLINE SUNDAY SCHOOL."

Discussion, Zoom practices and ideas, lesson activities, and resources for teaching Sunday School through online means, virtual classroom and outreach, including homebound students in our in-person classes, and more.

Online-graphic

About the photo of the boy, his cat, and his tablet...

That's my grandson Owen with his cat "Cheese." Owen LOVES Kids YouTube and rarely watches old-fashioned TV. He can Facetime with his family on his tablet and knows exactly how to do it, and he's only five.  Not pictured is his 8 year old sister who has her own cellphone (with appropriate parental monitoring and security) and cellphone number. She emails, text messages, and Facetimes with her family members and 3 "permitted" best friends. Carries her phone with her everywhere (like her parents) and gets very excited when people send her messages.

It's a new world folks. Our students are digital natives. They are not only connected, they EXPECT to be connected with. And don't get me started about "kids and screens." I see adults far more glue to their screens than kids. When I was a kid, I was glued to my baseball cards, records, and the portable radio plugged into my ear. What's that mom? Can't hear you!   I owned an Atari 2600 and the only person who played it more was my mom. She was hooked on Asteroids (true story: she got carpal tunnel from it).

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  • Owen and Cheese the Cat on their Tablet
  • Online-graphic
Last edited by Neil MacQueen

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