Why being intentional can transform your holiday kids club

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A holiday kids club is a momentous undertaking for any church. It is often an opportunity to do something big and impressive in children’s ministry, reach new families and get lots of congregation members involved. It can also end with one or more exhausted leaders.

The difference between a good and a great holiday kids club is often not in the bells and whistles but in the way leaders think intentionally about what they are doing.

Here are a few key areas you and your team to think well about before hosting your next holiday kids club:

Purpose

Think about the purpose of the program. Our goals for a ministry shape the decisions we make about how to do it. It is helpful for everyone involved to be clear on what the goal of your holiday kids club is.

  • Are you aiming to reach new families or strengthen links between the regular kids club and church?

  • Are you teaching and equipping the children to reach out to their friends or do you want them to invite their friends so the adults can do the evangelism?

These are good things to discuss within the staff team, amongst the regular leadership team and with the parents and new leaders who are involved. With everyone, actually!

The priorities you decide on can then guide your decision-making. You can be clear on why it’s good to say yes to some things and no to others. It is easy to get distracted with a great theme and all the fun ideas that go along with it. Sure, go wild with decorations, crafts and dressed-up characters. But keep the main thing, the main thing. It is more important to clearly and faithfully teach God’s word and give children the time and space to wrestle with it than to have the best decorations or costumes.

If you’re aiming to reach new families, think about creating time and space for church members to build relationships with new parents as well as giving their kids the best holiday experience ever. This also means thinking beyond that one day or week during the holidays to what happens after:

  • What happens next for these new friends?

  • Is there a natural and easy way for these relationships to continue in ways that allow for the gospel to be shared?

Having a core team to discuss and work things out from year to year is a great option. A few brains are better than one as well as being more sustainable and productive over the long term.

Communicating with parents

Think about how you are communicating with parents to assure them that their children will be in a safe environment. Sometimes we forget that many people are not familiar with church or may be quite distrustful of institutions. We often don’t provide enough information to allay those concerns.

Parents need to know who will be looking after their children, what they’ll be eating, whether their children be in a safe environment. Yes, it’s hard to provide lots of information on a colourful flyer but thankfully there is space on our church websites.

Include photos of previous events, photos of leaders, photos of the church (if it’s not already there), information about child safety, the teaching, food, whether parents can stay and watch (for anxious kids… and anxious parents) and allow a place on the registration form for parents to tell leaders any information about their child they think is important (for example, ‘Please put Sally in Polly’s small group’). Seemingly trivial requests can make a big difference for the children concerned.

Communicating with your church

Think about communicating with the whole church. Requests for involvement and help have their place but the congregation will be much more energised and encouraged if they can hear about how this holiday program fits in with the bigger picture of the mission of the church and children’s ministry.

To do this you could:

  • Have a regular update in the church newsletter

  • Visit Bible study groups and talk about it with people at a more personal level

  • Approach people directly with specific requests based on their skills and gifts

  • Provide a list of ways people can be involved—even if they can’t attend

  • Create a prayer guide and provide updates during and after the event

  • Share photos, answers to prayer and thank yous after the event

These actions show your members the value of their involvement.

Communicating with your leaders

Think about how you communicate with your leaders. One simple yet easily overlooked way to care for leaders is to give them a clear role description which defines their responsibilities. Asking for “Leaders to help” is too vague; asking someone to “Join a team” is much more defined action. For example, “Come serve on the music team / games and activities team / Bible time team / Crèche team.” It is much easier to succeed at a role when you understand what you’ve been asked to do and know you have the resources and time to do it.

Even if your team is only two people, it will almost always be more effective than only one. This also allows the spread of responsibility across more people, as well as mutual encouragement, equipping and support. The coordinator of the whole event can check in with team leaders rather than with every single person involved. It also helps younger or less experienced leaders to learn alongside those with more experience.

Team training

A team-based leadership structure provides one opportunity for training but there are more. How might people be equipped to serve in the lead up to the holiday program? Leaders could have preparation and training sessions within their own team. Or, you could host several sessions for all leaders over a meal after the Sunday service in the weeks leading up to the holidays. Perhaps there could be mentoring partnerships, prayer triplets, or family devotions that guide children and parents to be praying, inviting and having gospel conversations before, at or after the holidays.

Think about the natural opportunities that may already exist through people’s stage of life, current level of involvement, experience or relationships. Here again, being clear about what you are aiming to achieve in running this program will shape how you could make the most of the opportunities for training and equipping.

One of the best strategies if you’re aiming to integrate new families is a ‘parent chat’ team. This is a group of adults that ‘hang around’ at key times to welcome newcomers, strengthen relationships and have those gospel conversations. Members of this team should have no other responsibilities to distract from this important task. They might be parents with babies, older people, anyone ready and willing to share God’s love in this informal way. It is worth thinking carefully about how to equip people to serve in a variety of ways.

There is so much more that could be explored and always ways to improve what we are doing. Youthworks’ ministry advisors love to partner with churches in discussing all this and more. I hope these suggestions have sparked some new ideas you might try.

One final tip: don’t bite off more than you can chew. Know your limits and the limits of your context. God is glorified as his people serve together to share his love and proclaim Jesus, not in whether our programs are the most polished or whether they sold out. “Seek first his kingdom (Matt 6:33)”.

Annemarie Rivers

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