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Fabulous Fall

Sue Kahawaii, Adam Walsh, and Courtney Walsh

9 ideas to make this your most amazing fall for families, children, and your entire church.

Colorful leaves, football, hayrides, apple cider, a return to school, and fuller Sunday school rooms. Fall must be here! This autumn, create some new memories with this amazing assortment of tried-and-true ideas. Not only will children and families have a blast, but they'll also get to know one another -- and God -- even better.


REMEMBER WHEN, 2010

Summer never seems to last as long as we'd like, but you can help families preserve their cherished memories.

Get Ready
You'll need card stock, markers, glue sticks, scrapbooking embellishments (stickers, buttons, ribbon), and some sample pages or scrapbooking magazines for ideas. Recruit a scrapbook enthusiast from your congregation to provide tips and possibly share a die-cutting machine. Hold this in a large room with several tables.

Get Set
Have families bring in pictures from their summer activities and outings-vacations, staycations, birthdays, family reunions, VBS, the zoo, amusement parks, whatever. Then have them spread out their photos, group them by topic, and work together to assemble some pages. Encourage families to journal on their pages and spreads so they can remember all their adventures for years to come.

Faith Talk
Read Psalm 118:24. Ask: What will you remember most from this summer? What are ways God was with you during the good days and the tough days of summer?


Even Easier

Another option is to give each family an inexpensive mini-album, available at craft stores or online. If you have access to a computer and printer, people can print their comments and then paste them in their scrapbooks.


KIDS DAY


There's a Mother's Day and a Father's Day, so set aside a day to celebrate Children's Day.

Get Ready
Ask parents to write a letter to each of their children, telling how much they love and appreciate them -- and why. Encourage them to keep the letters a surprise and either mail or hand-deliver them to you. Make sure you have a letter for each child; if a parent doesn't return one, write a letter to that child. Have some generic letters on hand for extra children who show up that day.

You'll need decorations (balloons, banners, table centerpieces), a variety of snacks, ribbons or flowers to pin on each child, and small gifts or certificates.

Get Set
Greet all the children by pinning a ribbon or flower on them as they arrive. In every segment of your service or lesson, create ways for children to be in charge. For example, let them vote for which game to play from a short list of options. Discuss a Bible passage that involves children (God calling the boy Samuel, David working as a shepherd boy, Jesus welcoming children). In advance, select a few letters to read aloud. Present each child with his or her special letter. Remind children they're all special to God, who loves and appreciates them every day.

Conclude by handing out small gifts or certificates. For example, give children each a 100 Grand candy bar with a sticker that says, "You're priceless to God!" Or hand out official Kids Appreciation certificates, rolled up and tied with blue ribbon (download certificates at childrensministry.com).



WALK THROUGH WALLS


At Halloween, all sorts of zombies arise in costume. But we know there's only one true Savior who can raise people from the dead -- the greatest Tomb Raider of all: Jesus. Here's an eye-opening game from Group's The Great Tomb Raid fall festival to use. Kids will transform a simple piece of paper into something they can step right through!

Get Ready
You'll need 11x17 sheets of paper (1 per child) and child safety scissors.

Get Set
Show kids the sheet of paper and ask them if they think they could miraculously walk through it. Then show children how to cut the paper so they can walk through it, using the steps on the right.

Faith Talk
Read Luke 24:1-9 about a genuine miracle. Ask: What surprised you about this game? Why do you think the women were so surprised by Jesus' miracle?

To learn more about Group's The Great Tomb Raid fall festival, go to group.com/tombraid.


Paper Directions

1. Fold the paper in half and cut from the folded side to about half an inch from the open side. Do this on both ends of the paper, about half an inch in.

2. Cut down the fold in the paper, but don't cut the folded part of the two strips from step 1.

3. Alternating from one side of the paper to the other side, cut strips about every half-inch, ending each cut about half an inch from the opposite edge of the paper. (The closer together guests cut their strips, the more space they'll have to walk through.)

4. Carefully open the paper, which will be a large paper hoop kids can walk through.



PARK ART


Give children and families the chance to get creative without worrying about making a mess.

Get Ready
You'll need several 4x15-foot canvas drop cloths, tape, paint trays or tray liners, assorted colors of paint (ask families for donations of old paint), and a camera. No paintbrushes allowed!

Get Set
Hold this in a local park or even in your church parking lot. Section off the drop cloths with tape, and assign a section to each family. Instruct them to paint anything that depicts their family, but they can use only their hands, feet, or other body parts. After a set time limit, take a photo of each family with its canvas. Then display the dry artwork in your children's area, along with enlargements of the photos you took.

Faith Talk
Read Psalm 19:1-4. Have families discuss: What does God's creation say about him? What does your artwork say about your family?


Even Easier

Contain all the mess by having families create colorful chalk murals on park or church sidewalks.

LEND A HAND


Colder weather makes it increasingly difficult to shop for and load groceries. Your ministry can reach out to people who are struggling to simply get their food into their vehicles in parking lots.

Get Ready
You'll need inexpensive T-shirts with your church or ministry logo (you might have some already from a VBS or camp), as well as umbrellas or other weather-appropriate gear. Ahead of time, contact a nearby grocery store for permission to assist shoppers, and let them know when you plan to be there.

Get Set
Have children and families stand near the store's exits, ready to ask, "Need a hand?" Then they just cheerfully assist shoppers, using care in the parking lot. This is a simple but amazing way to show love and be a positive presence in your community.

Faith Talk
Read John 13:14-15. Ask: What was it like to help out people this way? What type of response did you expect-and receive-and how did that make you feel? What are some other ways we can follow Jesus' example by serving other people, including our families?



Even Easier

Have your children's ministry provide this umbrella service on Sundays when it rains at your church.


GREAT CHILI COOK-OFF


When fall's cooler air arrives, it's time to turn up the heat. There's no better way to do that-and to raise some funds for your ministry-than with a Chili Cook-Off.

Get Ready Schedule your cook-off for a Friday night or a Sunday after worship

services. Publicize ahead of time so amateur chefs in your congregation can plan their recipes. Assign entrants each a number and ask them to color-code their recipes, from mild to insanely hot.

Also recruit volunteers to decorate the eating area ahead of time, possibly with a chili pepper theme. Invite entertainers (singers, face painters, and balloon artists) to participate.

You'll need tables and chairs for attendees, serving tables for the pots of chili, fixings (crackers, grated cheese, sour cream), corn bread (baked by volunteers), pitchers of water and lemonade, bowls, spoons, napkins, cups, ballots, pencils, and a ballot box.

Get Set Set a small entry fee, such as $2 or $5, and sell tickets in advance, if necessary, to plan for the number of attendees. Reserve some tickets for the door, as well.

Give ballots to guests when they arrive, or place the ballots on tables. Have people vote for their favorite chili-or ask your church or ministry staff to be judges. Award a prize to the winner, such as an apron or a chef's hat. Post photos of the cook-off and the winning chef on your church's website and on a bulletin board. Move around and talk to people about your children's ministry to see if they're interested in joining your team.


PETS ON PARADE


This hilarious gathering will have all the pet lovers in your congregation howling, purring, or making whatever noise turtles make.

Get Ready
You'll need small prizes to hand out, such as gift certificates to a pet-supply store.

Get Set
Publicize this pet parade ahead of time, inviting pet owners to dress their animals in creative outfits. Challenge people to match their pets; think Bert and Ernie, Batman and Robin, and so on. Have owners and pets parade around together in an outdoor area or in a room with washable floors. After the parade, award gifts for various categories (best dressed, best owner-pet pair, most creative).


Even Easier

Instead of the actual parade, have everyone bring in photos of their pets to add to a "Pet Parade" bulletin board.



BFF (BEST FRIENDS FOREVER) DAY

Calm children's back-to-school jitters by letting them showcase their best friends. This special day is a great way to reassure children that friends come in all sizes, shapes, and appearances.

Get Ready You'll need paper, crayons, markers, bowls, spoons, ingredients to make banana splits, and a camera.

Announce in advance about BFF (Best Friends Forever) Day. In the weeks leading up to it, have staff members and volunteers introduce their own BFFs, such as childhood teddy bears or blankets. Get children thinking about all the possible people or things they can bring. When planning for the special day, allow enough time so all children have an opportunity to introduce their BFFs.

Get Set Ask children to bring one of their BFFs to church with them. The key is to be creative about what a friend is and who their friends are. For example, a grandparent, school friend, or neighborhood playmate could accompany them that day. Children can also bring a favorite book or toy.

Discuss what makes a good friend, using biblical examples such as Ruth and Naomi, David and Jonathan, or Jesus and his disciples. Encourage children to be good friends to one another, and teach them how to choose friends wisely.

Conclude by enjoying banana splits together. Invite any of the new BFF children to come back again. Take pictures of kids and their BFFs to post later.

Faith Talk
Read John 15:13-15. Ask: What makes your BFF so special to you? In what ways is Jesus your BFF? How can you let other people know that Jesus wants to be their BFF, too?


MONSTRO BUBBLE


Here's a fun game you can use any time, but it's perfect for Group's Slime Time Halloween alternative (since it came from there!). Get ready to enclose kids in a human-size bubble!

Get Ready
You'll need a child-size wading pool, a tarp, a hula hoop, and a cinder block. You'll also need pre-made bubble solution consisting of 2 gallons distilled water, 6 cups Dawn dish soap, and 4 cups corn syrup.

Place the tarp on the ground, and set the wading pool in the center of it. Pour the pre-made bubble solution into the pool. (It really is important to make the bubble solution the night before.) Set the cinder block in the center of the pool, and set the hula hoop in the pool.

Get Set
Check with parents to see if kids can keep their shoes on. (Shoes with non-slip soles can help kids stay steady if the cement block gets slippery). As a child stands on the cinder block, two people will lift the hula hoop up, forming a bubble around the child!

To learn more about Group's Slime Time fall festival, go to group.com/slimetime.

Sue Kahawaii is the children's executive pastor at Champions Centre in Tacoma, Washington. Adam and Courtney Walsh are experienced children's ministers from Illinois. Adam joins the Group team this month!

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