Mark Lacey, Bath, England
Practical ideas for running a holyday club
‘Let the children come’, Mat. 19. 14.
We are thankful to the Lord for the freedom that we have to reach out to children and young people. There are still many opportunities through Sunday schools, youth clubs, postal Bible schools, camps, schools work or holiday clubs.
For many years we have held a holiday club in our local church. This has been an annual event in which many from the assembly have participated. Initially borne out of a desire to ‘boost’ the on-going work of the Sunday School, and a need to establish a work for those going into their teenage years, we have been encouraged by the blessing we have seen. It is a privilege to be asked to share some of our experiences in the hope of encouraging others. We have made plenty of mistakes along the way but the Lord has been gracious. There is nothing more thrilling than to see someone in fellowship that was saved through such work.
Getting ready to go . . .
There is as much to do before a holiday club as during it. The work needs people with a range of gift – it is not all about those who are ‘gifted in children’s work’. Whether the decision is taken to invite a full-time children’s worker or to carry out the work using local believers, there are so many ways of being practically involved, no-one should be left out. Planning needs to start months in advance and so does prayer – make sure people know what is going on and encourage them to pray. We should pray for the souls of these children as Elijah prayed for the soul of a child in 1 Kings 18, verse 11.
There is a wide range of materials available from your Christian bookshop with readymade solutions for stories, activities and quizzes. We agree that it is worth having a ‘theme’ for the holiday club but believe that something designed by local believers, solidly grounded in biblical stories, works far more effectively than a ‘one size fits all’ solution. We have used themes such as: ‘In the Beginning’, ‘All at Sea’, ‘We’re going on a journey’, ‘It’s a Party!’, ‘He’s Alive!’, ‘Daniel and Friends’, ‘Joseph and his brothers’ (‘Joe and Co.’ if you want a more modern title!). The list is endless.
Once a theme has been selected, memory verses can then be chosen for each day and the activities team can get to work.
We have certainly found that craft activities have been a useful enhancement to the traditional ‘children’s meeting’ approach. They give an opportunity to get alongside the children and to reinforce the stories that they have heard. Activities need to be stimulating, varied and sufficiently challenging to keep the children occupied. They also need to be suitable for a range of ages to cater for all the children who are attending. Preparing for these activities can be a good way of getting people together and making them feel involved. Identifying someone to take a lead in preparation is important but older and younger believers can all help with preparing, cutting, sewing and sticking in advance of the event and during the activities.
Another vital part of preparation is to ensure that your Child Protection Policy is up to date and that adults involved in the holiday club are CRB checked. For those who are not clear about how to do this, contact the Churches Child Protection Advisory Service. The other thing we always do is notify the OFSTED Early Years team of our intended activity – we do not run for long enough to be officially registered but we always feel it wise to have covered ourselves. Also, give consideration as to whether you can provide transport and what the implications of that will be.
We live in an age where communication is vital. Numbers are not everything but it is important to make an effort with publicity. Also, it can help to establish links with local schools. Schools do get inundated with requests to disseminate information so approach this thoughtfully.
A letter or email to local Headteachers or school administrators in advance of a personal approach can be a good idea, saying what you are doing and that you will be calling in with leaflets soon. Do not be afraid to contact as many schools as possible within your area – we write to nearly thirty schools every year and distribute over 5,000 leaflets as a result. Give them the opportunity to call or email you with queries and say that you will provide leaflets bundled in thirties to make distribution to classes easier. Make sure your leaflet is designed appropriately for handing out to school children – it will need to be in child-friendly language and if it is littered with scripture texts and gospel appeals, it is unlikely to be deemed acceptable for distributing by the schools.
It can also be worth sending a copy of your leaflet to local newspapers and radio stations. They may well pick up on it and run a short article or interview that will cost you nothing. It all serves to raise the profile of the local church in the community.
Getting on with it . . .
The holiday club itself needs to be lively, energetic and engaging in order to capture the children’s imagination. Long gaps, disorganisation, and the use of unsuitable adults at the front can all be recipes for disaster! Including the main story near the beginning gives a lot more meaning to the activities. The story should be conveyed with meaning and excitement. Visual aids and the use of child volunteers all serve to keep them interested. Children are used to technology these days so selective use of computer visuals can be helpful.
Ensuring the memory verse ties in with the story is also important and it needs to be taught and explained enthusiastically – we enjoyed hearing friends teach it with a rhythm and a beat rather than the morbid recitation we have often heard!
Basing the quiz around the story itself also helps to reinforce the learning of the main aspects of the message. Again, the quiz needs to be engaging and so a challenge of some sort and a bit of competition between sides all adds to the fun!
Singing choruses is traditionally an important part of a holiday club. Choosing choruses carefully to tie in with the theme helps to get the message home. Lively choruses with plenty of actions, interspersed with more thoughtful ones can be very effective. Don’t be afraid to try a few new ones! Providing the music also needs to be planned carefully – there are many computerised accompaniments that can be very helpful. If you are using ‘live music’ ensure that the musician is well prepared (they know in advance what is coming next) and can keep the music going at a decent pace!
Prizes also help to encourage children to keep coming. Establishing a points system that will run throughout the week is worthwhile. Ensure the children know that points bring prizes and, when you get there, make sure the prizes are generous – children are not easily impressed these days! We feel it is important for everyone to get something, with additional prizes for the top points scorers.
The most important thing of all is to ensure that everything points the children back to the main story and the accompanying gospel application. Our motivation is, of course, to make Christ known and so we need to link everything together with the intent of making the gospel clear. At the end of every session we always include ‘And finally . . . ’ This pulls together what has been covered during the session and sends the children away with something to think about. Very often the parents are coming in at this point as well so they hear a concise presentation of the gospel.
Getting over it...!
Exhaustion normally sets in as the week draws to its close but it is important not to stop with the final goodbye. Get together to talk about the week or at least talk informally among yourselves. What went well? Who do we need to continue praying for? Are we going to do it again? What will need to be different?
It is important to realize that the ongoing spiritual fruit of a work like this will depend on what happens next. The need to continue praying is vital. The greatest fruit we have seen has been when we have worked hard to follow up those contacted during the week. Sending the children away with a ‘Goodbye’ leaflet works well – give them infor-mation about other events and how to get in touch if they want to find out more. We have visited homes with further literature, talked with parents and sent letters and invitations out afterwards. Often this has led to child-ren, and sometimes whole families, coming back to other activities.
‘For this child I prayed, and the Lord has granted me my petition which I asked of Him.’ 1 Sam. 1. 27