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Outreach That Works

The desks have been cleaned and the report cards handed out, but there's only one thing on every child's mind -- the sound of the last bell that rings out loud and clear, "SUMMER IS HERE!"

The anticipation has been building since Christmas break -- kids' dreams of big plans to fill their carefree summer days. Yet it's typically a matter of only a few days until parents hear those dreaded words, "I'm bored."

And how does the church respond? Some answer by placing a Summer Vacation sign on their children's ministries door. But when Jesus said, "Let the little children come to me," he didn't mean only when school was in session. Summer is when we can minister to kids without the typical challenges and distractions that can be overwhelming during the school year. To reach out to kids and families in this ripe season, use these ideas that really work.

Dream the Dream
A dream program will meet needs in your community. Do you have a lot of families in need of child care? Are kids in your area on a year-round schedule with only a few weeks off during the summer? Does summertime bring a lot of new residents to your vacation community? Ask questions that'll help you focus on meeting the needs of families in your community so your summer outreach opportunities will be irresistible. Take into consideration things such as climate, available space to house programs, and assurance that programs can be adequately staffed.

Today's kids and parents are savvy when it comes to quality programming. Kids want to learn something new, meet friends, and connect with adults who care about them. And parents want kids in a safe environment that stimulates all the senses rather than those only activated by video games. Combining these elements with a ministry's desire to share Jesus' love with kids will help you create a sure win this summer.

Recast an Old Friend
For years, vacation Bible school has been the tried and true summer program for churches. But for many children's workers who've been organizing VBS for years, it can begin to feel like the same old thing each year. To put a fresh face on your vacation Bible school program, try these ideas.

Use Different Terms. If you've begun to feel that you're only reaching churched kids when you promote vacation Bible school, call the week something different. You may want to advertise as a day camp or use only the theme as the program name, and leave out the VBS.

Try a New Locale. Attending a program on a church campus may cause some families to break out in hives. Help them ease into your ministry by offering vacation Bible school at an alternative site such as a school, park, or fairgrounds. Obtain the proper permits to hold your program at the site, and survey the site to get a handle on any facility needs and security issues. Using an alternative location in the community is also a great way to give your church a presence outside your church walls.

Take It on the Road. Reach out to areas that may not have the resources to provide their community with a vacation Bible school. Inquire with inner-city kids clubs to see if your church can provide a VBS for neighborhood kids. Or if kids in your community head to cabins for the summer, ask a resort if your church can use its facilities to hold a program for vacationing families.

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