With the end of the school year close at hand, many of our congregations’ Christian education programs are also winding down and getting ready for a summer break. What can you do to make sure things end well for students and volunteers? And how can ending well set you up for success as you jump into summer programs and start planning for the new school year this fall? Here are a few ideas!
Many of our congregations have a Rally Day celebration when programs start up in August or September, so why not do a Summer Sending celebration in May or June as things come to a close? Be intentional about giving everyone—adults, children, youth, volunteers, and families—a way to celebrate their time together. Host a make-your-own-waffle bar during the education hour on the last Sunday of your congregation’s program, and invite everyone to bring their favorite toppings to share (keeping allergies and special diets in mind). Decorate with balloons and streamers, and send everyone home with an age-appropriate party favor and/or a family-friendly devotional resource.
Have the Sunday School kids sing a favorite song together during worship, and invite the youth to serve as lectors and ushers for the day. Include your congregation’s education ministries in the prayers of the day. If possible, share photos or videos from the past year’s activities during the announcements time, or post pictures and student artwork on a special bulletin board in a high-traffic location.
Be intentional about thanking everyone who played a part in the Christian education programs during the past year: Sunday school teachers, nursery attendants, adult Bible study leaders, youth leaders, small-group coordinators, midweek volunteers, and anyone else who connects with your Christian education participants.
A sincere thank-you from the congregation can help everyone recognize the many hours freely given, and the invaluable personal connections made by these volunteers in their roles as Christian teacher, mentor, and friend.
Perhaps your congregation installed the teachers and volunteers as part of the fall Rally Day celebration? Invite them back for your Summer Sending celebration, and include them in a special prayer of thanksgiving and sending, marking the end of this particular year of service, thanking God for their faithfulness, and asking God to bless them as you send them into a season of rest and renewal.
Share a Preview of Things to Come
As you focus on ending well, celebrating and giving thanks for programs that are coming to a close, make sure you also highlight opportunities for Christian education that will be taking place during the summer, and give everyone a date to look forward to when programs will start back up in the fall.
Is your congregation hosting a Vacation Bible School this summer? Have postcards with the theme, dates, and registration information ready to hand out on the last day of Sunday School. Encourage kids to take extras to invite friends, family, and neighbors to join them at VBS.
Give families an easy way to carry their faith with them into summer—on vacations and road trips and during busy times when they might be away from their home congregation. Create Sunday School To Go packets using your summer Sunday School curriculum or other simple resources like the Everyday Faith Calendar. Include a budget-friendly craft that goes along with the lesson and a CD with simple Bible songs and hymns. Encourage families to bring their crafty creations back to church to share, and invite them to share stories of how they’ve used the home devotions to be included in your summer newsletters.
Give everyone something to look forward to by putting your Rally Day celebration on the calendar now. Give VBS participants an invitation at the end of VBS, and then invite them again when the date draws closer.
And don’t just focus on the kids! Be sure to include the youth and adult Bible studies in your Rally Day celebration—make it a time for everyone, as you all gather together around God’s Word. Offer adults a survey of potential adult education options, asking them to rank their interest in topical or biblical studies. Help youth connect their time at this summer’s National Youth Gathering with life back at home by carrying over the Gathering’s focus on the Psalms into a youth Bible study in September. Help everyone know what’s coming next, and encourage them to start planning now to participate in what’s to come in the fall.
May God bless your endings as you come to the close of the school year and enter into a season of rest and renewal. And may God give you a joy-filled new beginning in the fall as you reunite with students and volunteers in your congregation’s Christian education programs!
As you end this season and think about starting a new one, check out our new Bible Curriculum for your fall ministry.