My family moved last fall, and we’re still adjusting to new routines in our new city and state. One of the major differences between our old and new hometowns is the school schedule. There, kids are in school through the middle of June. Here, school’s out for the summer by mid-May! The end of the school year has snuck up on me, and I’m scrambling to plan some intentional summer fun for my three young boys to fill the days with more than just screen time and naps. I’m taking the opportunity to freshen up our play space, toss out the broken toys, rotate the books, and make things more age appropriate. Good-bye soft infant toys (sob!), hello wooden blocks, LEGOs, and train tracks. Seasonal books are being packed away, and I’m digging out the kids’ crafts and nature activities. Everything feels refreshed, and I feel ready to tackle a new season in our new home.
Maybe this is a similar season for you in your role as Sunday School teacher or youth leader. You might have some extra time to sort through leftover curriculum and craft supplies, to take stock of what worked well this past school year, and to plan for what you’d like to see happen over the summer or when school is back in session. If your congregation takes a break from their regular school-year ministry programs during the summer, you might be looking for some fresh ideas for how to keep children and youth engaged and growing in their faith during the program break.
Here are a few intentional summer ministry ideas to help get you started!
Summer Prayer Tree
Create a “Prayer Tree” out of brown kraft or construction paper on a bulletin board or wall in a well-traveled hallway in your church building. Keep a folder or hanging pocket nearby, filled with blank construction-paper leaves. Invite kids, youth, families, and adults to write their prayers on the leaves and add them to the tree each week. As the summer progresses, your Prayer Tree will grow fuller and more green. Make some leaves ahead of time that have Scripture passages about prayer on them, and hang a few new ones on the branches each week, encouraging your congregation to bring everything to God in prayer.
Summer Reading Program
Local libraries typically host a summer reading program for children and youth. CPH even has a summer reading program—CPH Reads—for all ages, encouraging people to read Christ-centered books all year long. Consider inviting the kids to join the CPH reading program, or simply open up the Sunday School resource closet or church library and make all of the books for children and youth available for checkout. Provide a simple checklist for participants to track the book titles and count how many books they’ve read, and enlist parents to help keep track. Celebrate together as a church by keeping a running tally of how many books have been read, and include that tally in your weekly bulletins.
Bible Memory Verse Challenge
Encourage everyone in the congregation to try memorizing Scripture verses over the summer. Assign a verse each week in the worship folder, or encourage people to turn to Luther’s Small Catechism or The Lutheran Study Bible for helpful verses to commit to memory. Plan a Scripture Bee for the end of the summer: host a cookout, invite the whole congregation and their friends, and have participants try to out-memory-verse one another as they recite the Scriptures they’ve studied over the summer. Have a small prize for everyone who participates, and celebrate God’s life-giving Word together.
Postcard Prayer Pals
Connect the generations in your congregation by pairing up children, youth, young families, and older members as summer pen pals. Encourage the pen pals to send a postcard to one another each week, with a short greeting and a prayer for their new friends. While this may be a busy season for travelers, and many of your members may be gone on Sundays or at other times throughout the summer, this activity can help them stay connected to the Body of Christ—and even strengthen their ties to one another—while they are physically apart.
May God bless your summer ministry with joy and refreshment!
Want to read more on ways to keep youth connected in faith, not just for summer, for for life? Check out our new book, Connected for Life.