Sunday, June 9, 2013

Summer Ministry . . . Let's Begin with Sunday School!

I've been talking about Summer ministry and have given several ideas of ministry you could involve children and families in all Summer long. I'm all for providing opportunities for the children and families in your church and community, but deciding what to do and then how and when to do it can be almost overwhelming. I mean, we all are busy . . . in many cases, too busy. Planning Summer ministry can, and likely will, add another thing to our "plate", so we need to consider some important questions before we move forward with our Summer ministry.
  • First of all, should we have Summer ministry to the children and families in our church and community? Since many summer ministry opportunities are "outreach", there is a Biblical basis for doing so . . . Jesus Himself told us to "Go and make followers of all people in the world. Baptize them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit. Teach them to obey everything that I have taught you, and I will be with you always, even until the end of this age." (Matthew 28:19,20 NCV) He also told us, "You will be my witnesses—in Jerusalem, in all of Judea, in Samaria, and in every part of the world." (Acts 1:8 NCV) We are supposed to go and make followers of all people in the world . . . this certainly includes the people in our own communities - and we are to "teach" them to obey Jesus. Since Jesus Himself told us to "Go" and to "teach", clearly there is no question as to "if" we should have ministry opportunities - even in the summer.
  • As I've already mentioned, the Summer is actually the perfect time to reach out to children and families as most children are not in school and families are looking for things to do in the Summer. For many families, the summer is a less busy time of year, which means, they may be much more willing to participate in the opportunities you provide!
So, since we know we should be reaching out to children and families and the Summer provides us the ideal time to do so, how do we decide the "how" and "when" of our Summer ministry? Before you consider adding additional opportunities to your calendar, look at what you are already doing and evaluate those things to see what you can do to be more effective and make them a more inviting opportunity to reach out to the people in your church and community. Today, let's consider a part of your ministry where you have already invested your time, resources and people. 
  • Plan a Summer of amazing Sunday school! If you are not planning to offer Sunday school in the Summer, please, re-evaluate this decision. Summer is - as I've already said - the ideal time to reach out to the children and families in your church and community . . . how can you do this if you are not even offering Sunday school? What does it communicate if you are not offering Summer Sunday school? 
  • You may not think of your Sunday school as "ideal Summer ministry", but if your church is inviting and is generating interest from the people in your community, you will have visitors. Is your Sunday School "visitor-friendly"? When a visitor arrives is your children's ministry a place which generates confidence and communicates they are welcome? Are visitors greeted by someone who will welcome them and answer their questions when they arrive at your church? Are your children's classes easy to find? Do you have a flyer with all the important information about your children's ministry? When they reach your children's classes is there someone available who can patiently explain your security/sign-in procedure? Do your volunteers wear name-tags or something which makes them easily identifiable? As they "peek" into your classrooms do they see children engaged with caring adults? Are visiting children welcomed by the other children and invited to participate, or are they left on their own?
These are all important questions for you to know the answers to so when a visitor visits, your children's ministry is welcoming. They are also important for you to know the answers to before you plan any big "Summer outreach" event as the goal of your event will be to bring community people into your church. If you have a great Summer event, but then when the visitor visits your church they find an unwelcoming atmosphere, you will have a much more difficult time enfolding them into your church community. So consider re-focusing and strengthening your Sunday school ministry so it has the vision, passion, focus and plan to be an effective "outreach" of your church! 
  • Be sure to also take a look at the curriculum you are utilizing. If your Summer outreach "event" is engaging and exciting, but your Sunday school is boring it will be significantly more difficult to get visitors to become members of your church community. Does your curriculum enable you effectively and intentionally engage the children so they are able to remember and understand God's Word and then take it out the doors of the church and know how to live it in their everyday lives? I just reviewed several curriculum resources with side-by-side comparison charts to help you as you evaluate curriculum - do this and be sure your volunteers are trained and ready to use it effectively.
  • Consider using VBS for your Summer Sunday school! This helps your Sunday School have an enthusiasm and excitement which is great for church and community children and families!
So, as you consider Summer outreach, look first at what you are already doing with your Sunday school ministry and consider where and how you can strengthen it. Of course, if you are not currently offering Sunday school in the Summer, then the first thing to do would be to begin offering it! Make Sundays the not-to-miss part of your church's Summer ministry!

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