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Back to School Ideas

Children's Ministry Magazine

The 16 A+ ideas in this special section will keep your kids from playing hooky from church!

Yellow school buses. Crisp backpacks. The smell of new school supplies. The sound of school bells ringing.

It's that time of the year! The summer recess is over, and kids are heading back to school. Along with that, family vacations have come to an end, and everyone is ready to get back into a routine.

That's why we've packed this special section with 16 back-to-school ideas to help you capture kids' attention and keep them coming back to church for more. You'll find ideas for building attendance and strengthening children's faith in Christ. Use these fun crafts, games, and bulletin board ideas to help kids score high in their walk with God this fall.

Faith Builder: Prayer Huddles

I have prayer huddles at the beginning of my class. I have two helpers and two teachers each lead a prayer group. We pray for 10 to 15 minutes.

Because of these prayer huddles, the children each have an adult who's interested in them and prays with them about their requests. We keep the same groups all year so the children feel secure sharing with each other. The leader keeps a prayer journal to record weekly requests and answers.

We also give each group its own missionary. The groups pray for the missionary families and correspond with them by email and letters.

Laurie Wright
Springfield, Illinois

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Review Scripture Scroll

To help children remember what they learn in class, I have them make scrolls.

I give each child a yard of muslin with the edges zig-zag cut to reduce raveling. I set out permanent markers, fabric paint, glue, and fabric scraps at the start of each class.

The point of this project is for the children to express how God's Word strikes their heart. I allow five to 10 minutes at the beginning of each class for children to express on their scrolls what they learned from God's Word the previous week. Children eventually create 30 images on their scrolls.

At a year-end prayer service, I give each child his or her scroll nicely folded with a gold ribbon around it.

Norma Kelly
Medina, Ohio

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Bible Buddies

For years our church has had a program called Bible Buddies. We match caring adults with third-graders in our church. The adults pay for Bibles for their buddies, participate in the presentation of the Bibles, and commit to pray for their buddies throughout the year. Often, the adult buddies each send a small gift and card to their buddies to make them feel special.

This year I added a Bible study called How to Use My Bible. I invited third-, fourth-, and fifth-graders along with anyone else who wanted to come. I expected approximately 15 children the first night and was pleasantly surprised to have more than 25 children participate in the eight-week course. The kids are excited about the idea of being able to use their Bibles just like the adults.

Laura Matthai
Plantation, Florida

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Mug File

To get to know each of my fifth- and sixth-graders, I put together what I call a Mug File on them. I created a form for each person. At the start of each class, I had each child complete a form. Along the way, each visitor would complete a form as well. Then I would take a Polaroid picture of each of them and attach it to the form.

The kids enjoy this and it gives us a good connection. The first thing the kids tell newcomers is that they have to get a mug file because Mrs. Mobley wants to know all about them. They even remind me if I forget!

The questions on the form include:

  • Tell me about your family.
  • What are your hobbies?
  • What school do you go to?
  • What is your favorite music, TV show, movie, and book?
  • Do you collect anything? If so, what?
  • Do you have a Bible? If not, would you like to have one?

Marian Mobley
Monett, Missouri

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Friendship Sunday

We had a Friendship Sunday for everyone in our church. In Sunday school, our children made friendship pins using tiny beads and safety pins. To do this, place beads in a shallow pie pan and have children put the beads on the safety pins by pushing the pin through the bead on the pan.

We made double-sided business cards using clip-art and a computer publishing program. On one side of the business card, we wrote "What a friend we have in Jesus" and on the other side, "We would love to be your friend, and Jesus is always your friend. Welcome." We pinned a friendship pin to each card.

During the children's message in worship on Friendship Sunday, we talked about what it means to be a friend of Jesus, and we invited our friends who had joined us that day to be friends of Jesus, too. Then the children handed out their friendship pins to all the visitors.

Lisa Anderson
Concord, North Carolina

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Introduction Web

Play this fun game to learn children's names.

Have children sit in chairs in a circle. Begin by saying your name while holding on to the end of a ball of yarn. Then roll the ball across the circle to someone else. Have the group respond by saying "hello" to that person, using his or her name; for example, "Hello, Kyle."

As everyone holds on to his or her part of the string, the web grows. After everyone has been introduced, the web is complete. Afterward, discuss how we're all connected to each other.

Variations:

  • Have children try to remember the names of everyone that was introduced before them.
  • Have children stand and hold the web in place. Instruct them to raise the web up high, bring it down low, and walk in a complete circle until they reach their chairs again.
  • Have everyone stand while holding the web. Then have each child take a turn crawling under the web to the person he or she chooses to pray a blessing over. The prayed-for person then goes back to where his or her prayer partner came from and chooses someone else to pray for.

Linda Carol Dalton
San Jose, California

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Bulletin Boards

Bulletin Board System

Our bulletin boards in our preschool and children's areas were empty, out-of-date, and unappealing. So I prepared a bulletin board schedule for each month of the year. I assigned various children's ministries, such as Sunday school and choir, the responsibility for a specific bulletin board. I gave them suggestions for topics and display ideas. I also provided background paper and borders if they wanted them. We sent them postcard reminders two weeks ahead of the month their bulletin board needed to be created.

Annie Yelton
Charlotte, North Carolina

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Phone Catalog

I catalog effective bulletin boards that I see (mine and others') by taking Polaroid pictures of them. I date and label each photo to be sure I don't duplicate the idea too soon or use it with the same group. I use an accordion folder to archive the photos and the appropriate pattern or stencil that goes with it under appropriate categories. This has been a great resource.

Lyn Wolfe
Watauga, Texas

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Hand-some Trees

Celebrate the seasons with this interactive bulletin board.

Trace the forearm and hand of each child on four different sheets of blue construction paper. Label different papers "spring," "summer," "winter," or "fall." Have children use finger prints or dot stickers to create pictures for each season, such as the following:

  • Spring -- light green to make buds and leaves;
  • Summer -- dark green to make a very green tree;
  • Fall -- yellow, orange, green, red, and brown to make a colorful fall tree; and
  • Winter -- white to make snow on the tree and on the ground and snowflakes in the air.

You can hang children's seasonal trees when the season arrives. Or if you have a small class, divide the bulletin board into four seasons and place the trees in the appropriate season.

Kelley Dean
Clarksville, Arkansas

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Know Your Addresses

To help children learn Bible verses and their addresses (or references), I created this interactive bulletin board. Children can select a Bible verse from a bucket and match it to the appropriate mailbox.

After creating the bulletin board background, follow the directions for each element. Add a tree in one corner.

  • Mailboxes -- Staple different-size mailbox posts cut out of construction paper to the background. Staple the long ends of a sheet of construction paper together, without putting a crease in the paper. To avoid smashing the mailbox, apply glue directly to the outside of one side of the mailbox, slide your hand inside the mailbox, and press the glued side to the bulletin board.
  • Verse Bucket -- Cut out a large construction paper bucket and write "Verses" on it. Glue the bucket sides to the bulletin board background paper so there is an opening gap in the bucket to store the verses.
  • Addresses -- Put a rolled piece of masking tape on each mailbox, and attach each Bible reference to a piece of tape.

Finish off your bulletin board with a border. Add slips of paper with verses but no reference to the bucket. The references (or addresses) should be on the mailboxes. Then let the kids enjoy the board!

Kirsten Jones
Glendale, Arizona

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Chart Tree

Instead of using the traditional attendance chart for my Sunday school class, I put up a large tree on the wall and allow the children to attach seasonal things when they come in. This helps us see how many kids are attending. In spring we put green leaves on the tree. Toward the end of summer, we add apples. Around the end of September, we harvest the apples and paste them in a paper basket that's displayed on a wall. Then we start putting yellow, red, orange, green, and brown handprints for fall on the tree. At the end of November, we "rake" the leaves and paste them on a smaller tree. (I put the basket and trees aside to use in a calendar for a parents' Christmas present). In December we create a Christmas tree out of green handprints and add ornaments to the tree. We add snowflakes during January and February. March brings flower blossoms and then we start the year over again with green leaves.

This teaches children about the seasons and how God made each time of year different. It makes a nice seasonal decoration for the room while at the same time letting the kids participate in attendance. My kids enjoy coming each Sunday and being able to put something on the tree.

Peggy Klier
Willits, California

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Back To School Games

by Mary Davis

Pencil Sweep Relay

Form teams of four or more. Designate a goal area at one end of the room. Have teams line up at the other end of the room. Then give each team a pencil and a broom. The first person on each team sweeps the pencil to the goal and back. The next person in line does the same thing until everyone on the team has had a turn.

Teacher, May I?

Play this revised version of Mother, May I? with kids. Have children line up at one end of the playing area while you stand at the other end. Call each child and give that child a command. The child must say, "Teacher, May I?" before obeying the command. If the child forgets to ask the question, he or she must return to the start of the game. The goal is to be the first child to reach the teacher.

Use commands such as the following to keep the school theme:

  • Scissor walk -- Cross legs as they take each step.
  • Eraser steps -- Walk backward.
  • Hopscotch -- Hop on one foot.
  • Recess race -- Skip.
  • Kindergarten crawl -- Move on all fours.
  • Graduation steps -- Take giant steps.

School Bus Motion

Form groups of four. Have each group stand in a circle with group members' arms around each other's shoulders. Each circle is now called a wheel.

When you shout out driving commands, each wheel must do what you say. For example, if you shout "Turn to the left," each wheel rotates to the left while trying to move across the floor. Other commands could be to turn to the right, bounce, or make two turns left and one turn right. The wheels must remain attached at the shoulders at all times.

Crafts With A Purpose

Fisher Of Men Pin

This is a great craft for kids to make and wear to school to remind them that they need to be "fishers of men." The pins are also great conversation-starters so kids can share their faith with their friends at school. And you can make these cute pins for just pennies a piece!

For each pin you'll need:

  • 1x3½-inch strip of craft foam, any color
  • 2-inch square of white craft foam
  • 1 ½-inch jewelry pin attachment
  • extra-fine point black permanent marker
  • thick tacky or craft foam glue

Tell kids to:

  • Cut banners out of the colored craft foam and hook shapes out of the white craft foam.
  • Glue the hook on the pointed end of the banner shape.
  • Write the words "Fisher of Men" down the length of the banner.
  • Glue the pin to the back of the banner.
  • Allow the glue to dry before wearing.

Terri Quillen
Greenwood, Indiana

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Nursery Craft Sacks

To relieve the burden on our nursery craft coordinator, we had our older kids help prepare a year's worth of craft bags. To do this, you'll need gallon-sized resealable plastic bags, craft instructions, and specific craft supplies. Form an assembly line where kids can do the necessary cutting out, printing of Scripture verses, gluing, or whatever is required.

Lynn Skilsky
Oro Valley, Arizona


Please keep in mind that phone numbers, addresses, and prices are subject to change.

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