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Never-Ending Summer

Children's Ministry Magazine

Hang on to summer a little longer with these super-fun celebration activities that are sure to make the end of summer a whole lot more fun for everyone.

The summer's end is near -- a bittersweet close to a season when children's ministry embarks on out-of-the-norm adventures such as vacation Bible school, overnight camp, and pool parties. Ahhh -- the memories.

Kids will soon be strapping on new school shoes and standing at the bus stop, new backpacks and fresh crayons in tow, to embark on another school year of adventure. Churches echo the start of the school year with an influx of kids returning to Sunday school on a regular basis and moving into new classrooms.

Celebrate the coming school year with a back-to-school extravaganza for kids that helps them hang on to summer fun a little longer. Plan your festivities for a week or two before the school doors open in your community. This back-to-school event can be held in lieu of your regular weekend classes, or on a Sunday afternoon to celebrate with the entire family or community. Make this a time for kids to celebrate the beginning of a new school year and to acquire tools that will help them share their faith.

CRAFTS

Faith Folders
Get plain, two-pocket folders and decorating items such as stickers, markers, photos, or glitter glue.

Let kids share their faith at school by creating folders with a message. Have kids decorate folders with faith messages such as "God rocks!" or "Jesus is my hero." Photos from summer programs and events add a unique touch.

Backpack Tags
Get cookie cutters, pencils, craft foam, scissors, markers, a hole punch, and colored cable ties (available at hardware stores).

Kids can easily identify their backpacks with these colorful, customized tags. Let kids trace and cut out a foam shape. Kids can print their information such as name, school, or class on one side. On the other side, let kids write a favorite Bible verse or Christian phrase to share their love for Jesus. Punch a hole at the top of the shape and use a colored cable tie to attach it to the child's backpack.

Secret Zipper Pulls
Get beading cord, lanyard hooks (available at craft stores), pony beads, and copies of the secret code key.

Kids can protect sensitive numbers such as locker combinations or emergency phone numbers.

Kids can tie a secure knot at one end of the beading cord, and then string beads using the secret code key. String beads that match the numbers in a phone number or locker code according to the secret code key. Continue the pattern until the phone number or locker code is complete. Tie the end of the cord and attach a lanyard hook. Kids can attach their secret codes to their backpacks or jackets as they head to school for the year.

Secret Code Key
0=red; 1=yellow; 2=blue; 3=green; 4=purple; 5=brown; 6=white; 7=black; 8=clear; 9=orange

Masterpiece Magnet
Get spring clothespins, fun foam shapes, markers, craft glue, magnet strips, and various craft items, such as ribbon, glitter glue, or sequins.

Kids display their artwork and a reminder that they're God's masterpiece.

Kids can select a fun foam shape and write, "I'm God's Masterpiece" on the foam with a marker. Then glue a magnet strip on one side of the clothespin and the fun foam shape onto the other. Personalize the magnet with various craft items. Kids can display their school artwork on the refrigerator at home and remember that they're also wonderfully made.

Colorful Photo Frames
Get colored card stock, black paper, markers, self-adhesive magnetic strips, and glue.

Kids will love showing off their "first day of school" photos in these colorful crayon photo frames.

Cut card stock into 81/2 x 3-inch strips. Also cut card stock triangles with a 3-inch base to make the tip of a crayon and black 1/2 x 3-inch strips for the crayon trim.

Let kids glue the appropriate parts of the crayon together and write on the top of the crayon, "First Day of School 2006." Place a magnetic strip on the back of the crayon. Kids can attach their school photo in the center of the crayon to create a refrigerator magnet commemorating the first day of school.

Growing God's Word
Get small clay pots, florist foam, plastic floral card stakes, markers, stickers, index cards, and Bibles.

Help kids grow in their faith with these one-of-a-kind flowerpot reminders.

Kids decorate their pots with markers and stickers. Then place a piece of florist foam in the bottom of the pot and insert a plastic floral card stake in the foam. Kids write their favorite Bible verses on index cards and place them in the card stakes. Kids can put their pots where they'll see them every day and read their favorite Bible verses.

GAMES

Lion Tamer
Get three small beanbag "lions," stickers, a Hula Hoop, and streamers.

Kids can tame the lion as Daniel did with this game of skill (Daniel 6).

Have kids "tame the lions" by throwing beanbags through the hoop decorated with streamers attached. Give kids a sticker each time the lion makes it through the fiery hoop.

Video Me
Get a camcorder, CD player, Christian music or karaoke CDs, and optional props such as a drum set, guitar, or microphone.

Kids love to see themselves on television, so let them be rock stars!

Set up an area for kids to perform karaoke or do an air band perform­ance. Record each group's antics, and let kids watch themselves on television when they're finished. If your church has the capability, you can set up a television to record each performance live on a separate screen. Save the tapings to show the following weekend.

Feed the Pigs
Get a target in the shape of a pig with the mouth cut out. You'll also need two dozen Ping-Pong balls and a stopwatch.

Like the prodigal son, kids get to feed the pig in this test of precision and speed (Luke 15:11-12).

Kids can try to beat the clock by seeing how much "food" they can feed the pig in one minute.

Let It Shine
Get a plastic kiddie pool, water, floating candles, a barbeque lighter, and squirt guns.

Help kids remember that even when people try to extinguish God's light, God wants us to let our light shine for him (Matthew 5:16).

Remind kids that there are people who try to extinguish the light of Jesus in our lives. Tell kids it's important as they head back to school to let their lives shine for Jesus every day.

At the signal, kids can use squirt guns to try to extinguish the lit candles floating in the pool. The game is over either when the squirt guns are empty or when the candles are extinguished.

Chariot Races
Get several wagons and a circular race course with boundaries.

Kids will go wild participating in this version of ancient Rome's circus event.

Kids run this race in pairs -- one child pulls the wagon while the other rides. At the signal, pairs choose who'll be the runner and rider. For extra fun, give kids an Olympic medallion to wear around their necks after the race.

Royalty Rings
Get a kiddie pool, play sand, plastic jewelry rings, and long wooden sticks.

This version of a Korean game will remind all kids that they're children of God.

Fill the kiddie pool with sand and bury the rings in the sand. Kids use the sticks -- no hands -- to find a buried ring to wear and remind them they belong to Jesus.

Bubble Up
Get a kiddie pool, water, bubble solution, and bubble wands of various shapes and sizes.

Younger children will enjoy this fun activity station for creating bubble shapes.

Have an adult supervise this station where kids can experiment with bubble wands that create bubbles of different sizes and shapes.

DESTINATIONS

Church Tour Guides
A back-to-school celebration is the perfect time to give kids a tour of your children's ministry area, especially if they'll be heading to a new location or room in the fall.

Design and make copies of a "passport" for kids to carry with them on a journey around your church. Show kids where classrooms, bathrooms, group meeting areas, and more are located. Have stamps and stamp pads available at each destination for kids to mark off the locations in their passports. Tour guides can give kids the inside scoop about each area with fun facts, such as how many kids visit each room during the week or how many rolls of toilet paper are used during weekend services.

Delilah's Beauty Shop
Kids can get a crazy hairstyle at this hot spot. Have your youth braid hair in fun styles, such as cornrows or French braids. Let stylists add color to kids' locks with colored or glitter hairspray that easily washes out at the end of the day.

Joseph's Amazing Coat
Joseph is known for his coat of many colors -- and you can transform his colorful coat into one with lots of surprise pockets.

Add lots of deep pockets to the front of a colorful coat and fill the pockets with school surprises such as pencils, erasers, and stickers. Joseph can roam around the carnival and let kids choose a pocket to reveal a special school surprise.

God's Art Gallery
People with artistic talent can paint masterpieces on kids' faces or arms. Let kids choose a predesigned symbol or character for artists to paint, such as fun characters from vacation Bible school, favorite animals, or Christian symbols. Or transform kids' faces into an animal or clown character with an optional full-face paint.

Make it a Blowout
Add more flavor, fun, and meaning to your back-to-school celebration with these ideas.

• Sweet Treats -- Sugary delights are almost an essential addition to any celebration with kids. Rent a cotton candy or snow cone machine to satisfy kids' sweet tooth. Or serve hot dogs, nachos, and lemonade so families don't have to leave for meal time.

• Air-Filled Fun -- Rent inflatable games, bounce houses, or slides to enhance back-to-school fun and draw in your community with a fun and colorful street presence.

• Give Back-to-School -- Ask kids several weeks prior to the celebration to help kids in need go back to school with the basics. Contact community agencies such as homeless shelters or your school district's free lunch program to learn what school supplies are most needed. Then invite kids to bring donated items. Deliver supplies to local shelters or school districts.

• Fall Festival -- For an unforgettable fall kickoff, check out SlimeTime, a fall festival community outreach that lets kids be the light of Christ in the darkness. Group Publishing, Inc., 800-447-1070; www.groupvbs.com/slimetime.

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