26 May Summer 2017 – Gadgets & Gizmos! Part 1: Everything’s An Experiment
Life App: Creativity—imagining what you could do because you’re made in God’s image.
Theme: Gadgets & Gizmos
Date: Summer 2017
Summer is always a fun time of year for us in Children’s Ministry. We change the way we do things in our environment and we implement a summer team of volunteers, so everything looks different from our regular programming during the school year.
While we love many aspects of what we do in the summer, there were a few things that were in need of some serious “tweaking” – so this year, we’ve changed things up quite a bit! We’ll still implement a summer series and we’ll still use a summer team of volunteers, but we’re changing things up in the following areas:
- Our Summer Schedule (when we launch our summer series and how long it will last)
- Our Summer Team (we’re implementing things earlier this year)
- Our Programming for our Summer Series (a new structure)
Our church is located in Maryland, and kids are in school through mid-June each year. They don’t return to school until the end of August (this year, they’ll go back after Labor Day). As a result, our “summer season” does not start until the end of June and goes through the month of August. Our curriculum writers, however – write the summer series to be implemented throughout the months of June and July. In the past, I’ve pushed our summer series and curriculum each year to occur through July and August and used curriculum from the previous August during the month of June. While we’ve done this for years, it created a few issues for us:
- We did not like launching our summer series on 4th of July weekend – no momentum and a bit underwhelming
- Our curriculum did not match up with the Parent Cue App
- We had to change dates and edit curriculum in a bigger way since we moved everything around and it became quite confusing for our resource team, our leaders, and our parents
This year, the Elementary and Preschool Departments have teamed up to launch our summer series in June. While we will have separate programming, we are kicking things off at the same time and have branded our summer programming as a time to “Turn Up the Fun in C3 Kids this Summer!”
Not only does this keep us in sync with our curriculum writers (well, sort of – see below for changes in our programming) it also offered a great promotion opportunity. As a Children’s Ministry Team, we were able to brand our summer programming and promote the launch of our summer series together. Our hope is that this is creating a buzz and some momentum as we head into the summer months. In addition, the stronger promotion of a joint launch to our summer series gives our regular attenders a great invite opportunity. We’ve promoted the entire summer as a great chance to invite families with preschool and elementary aged kids to our church.
Our Summer Team – June vs. July Start
Another aspect of summer for us involves the implementation of a summer team of volunteers.
We love our Summer Team of Volunteers but in past years, we have used the month of June to recruit people and have them observe our environments. Then we would place these new volunteers on the schedule for July and August and that left us little opportunity to apprentice them or train them well.
We will still implement our summer team this year, but we’ve backed everything up a bit and began our recruitment/orientation in May. We’ll use the entire month of June to have new volunteers observe and apprentice with veteran leaders (since June is still part of our school year commitment for our regularly scheduled leaders).
In the past, we have always had 9 weeks of summer programming in July & August. We have purposely changed the structure of our programming to make things more user-friendly for our Summer Team of Volunteers. We would create stations around the room (video games, crafts, a photo booth, legos, etc) for kids to go to upon entrance to our environment. We would also extend our large group time and we would keep the small group follow-up activities very simple. All of this was done to accommodate our new group of Summer Team Volunteers. While we’ll continue to do some aspects of this, we’ve changed a lot this year.
THE PROBLEM (#1):
Missing The Mark
We noticed over the past few years, that our stations were not really a hit for our kids. Often, it felt overwhelming for kids to enter our environment and not really know where to go first. Seeing kids’ hesitation to engage and their lack of enthusiasm at the stations shed a light on the fact we were missing the mark with regard to our vision. Our vision for C3 Kids Elementary is to “point kids to Jesus by giving them a place to belong and a leader who believes in them.” As kids entered the environment each week of our summer programming, they did not have a group to go to or a leader that was waiting for them. Instead, they had to find their way to a station and figure out how to engage with who was already there. While we had a volunteer at each station, this structure offered less interaction with leaders and other kids and seemed to contradict what our ministry is all about.
THE SOLUTION (#1):
Hitting the Mark
We’ve decided to do away with stations completely. There may be a few kiddos that will miss the video games, but hopefully, they will enjoy the fun activities we have planned for their group each week.
In addition, we will have kids go directly to their small group each week. They will work together on a gadget/gizmo type of game that allows for some team building and fun! While they may have a different leader each week (due to our Summer Team of Volunteers) we hope the clarity on where to go upon entrance and the team building aspect of the activities will help them feel like they have a place to belong when they come to C3 Kids.
THE PROBLEM (#2):
Stations took a lot of work and our resource team worked tirelessly to create them at the front end of the summer and keep up with them each week. Knowing there was an enormous amount of effort being put forward for something that wasn’t accomplishing our goal/vision meant it was time for a change.
THE SOLUTION (#2):
While launching our summer series will always require a lot of work (Summer Team, summer curriculum changes, and environment decor) the removal of stations cut down a lot of our workload. In addition, we will not have weekly stations to restock and prepare. We have traded that for some large-scale gadget and gizmo-building projects, but gathering resources for those projects is similar to what we do each week already, so hopefully our resource team volunteers will get some downtime this summer.
THE PROBLEM (#3):
Not Syncing Up
We really did not love using curriculum from the previous year for our June series so that we could push our summer series to July and August. It just felt very disjointed and nothing seemed to sync up correctly. Our parents were asking about why the Parent Cue App said one thing and our take-home resources said another and the entire thing was very confusing. We have not solved this completely, but it did prompt us to change the way we are doing things so they make more sense and are more streamlined.
THE SOLUTION (#3):
While we will not sync for the entire summer, we love the idea that our summer series launches at the time it was intended. We also love that it will be the theme for the entire three months of summer in Maryland. Gadgets & Gizmos will carry over through August. It will be a 13-week series rather than our usual 9. More on how we’re doing that in Part 2 of this post. We’ll lose sync with our curriculum writers and Parent Cue App at some point in our programming, but we feel better about that happening in the midst of a series where at least the theme remains the same, rather than at the front end of our summer programming when nothing is the same for 3 months.
This summer is an experiment on many levels for us. I can’t wait to see how it goes! What are your plans for Summer Programming?