Recently we hosted a Princess Party at our church. We had over 800 people attend the event. 60% of people were not regular church attenders. We received a lot of positive feedback after the event about how much people enjoyed coming to the event. Here are some of the things we included at the Princess Party:
Four times a year we do an event that is meant for families to do something together.
Gingerbread Party – to kick off the Christmas Season
Princess Party – in the winter
Family BBQ – during our EPIC kids summer camp week
LEGO Party – in the spring
Here are some pictures of our LEGO Party and what we did:
Yesterday I had a great day enjoying some time with my daughter at the American girl store. We booked a reservation to attend their Bistro. While we were sitting there, we noticed a box in the middle of the table. The box had small strips of paper with questions on them. The questions are meant to spark conversations while sitting at the table. The kids at the table enjoyed asking the rest of us questions and hearing our responses.
There are many conversation starter sets available for free on the internet. Pinterest is loaded with them. You can even put scripture verses in a small container and pull them out as you sit around the table as a family. What other ideas do you use to encourage discussion around the dinner table?
I went out for lunch with my family after church on Sunday to celebrate the last few days of freedom before school started. While we were eating, I couldn’t help but listen in on the conversation happening at the table next to us. The lady was telling her friend about her experience growing up in a church. The now grandmother age lady recalled a building with hard pews that were uncomfortable to sit in, a pastor who spoke long, and a Sunday morning experience that was extremely boring. The religious experience was all about rules & consequences for breaking the rules. When she was old enough, she decided that she had no interest in this thing called church.
As she told her story, I couldn’t help but think about how many other people have grown up with this same experience. During their formative years, their experience of church was irrelevant & boring.
Parents, Teachers, Pastors & Volunteers wish there was a simple answer to the question: How do you keep kids from leaving the church when they get older? Although there is no secret formula, I do think there are several factors that increase the chances of them sticking around.
Relationships – As I think back to my own experiences growing up in the church, I had many people who greatly impacted me and were great role models. My parents, my parents’ friends, Sunday School Teachers, one-on-one buddies, midweek leaders, youth pastors and summer camp leaders. Note: People who invest time in kids may not see the reward of their investment until many years later.
Regular Attendance – My parents believed in going to church EVERY Sunday. Not just once in a while, or when it worked for our schedule. EVERY Sunday. This taught me that church was a priority, not just optional when it worked for us. We planned our family schedule around our church schedule.
Relevant – I went to Sunday School. I went to the mid-week program for kids. I went to youth. During each stage of my life there was a program available for me to attend that was fun & taught lessons that were appropriate for my age group.
Real – My family didn’t grow up in a perfect bubble. We had our share of challenges. My dad died of cancer when I was 16 and that left my mom to raise 5 kids on her own. The church surrounded our family with love & support. They prayed for us & helped in practical ways. They were doing what Jesus would have done. It taught me that the church sticks with each other through the good times & the not so good times.
Serving – (sorry I couldn’t think of a word that started with ‘R’) – From the time I was a young teenager I was given opportunities to serve. I helped in Kids Ministry & was involved in music. It took the focus off of myself and helped me focus on others. I was using my gifts & talents in the area of my passion. Church was about giving, not just receiving. In those serving roles I built relationships with people of all ages who were happy to spend time with me and encourage me as I served along side of them.
As I look at the lives of those who grew up in the church with me, many of them are still connected in a church today. Many of them would list the same list of things as I did. It’s probably not a complete list, but it’s a good start.
Crossroads church in Cincinnati, does a great job of communicating to parents what the lesson was about in the kids program. At the door of each room they have a sign that they change each week. They list 2 questions that parents can ask their child to start a discussion about that day’s lesson. I loved that it was simple, visual, and user friendly!
Another thing they do is post the lesson plans online. Parents can see what the lesson was about, what the small group questions were, what they did for connection time etc. It helps give parents a place to start to chat about the lesson when they get home.
To take it a step further, they post the videos online that they use in their lessons. That way, the families can watch them together at home.
What can you do to help families continue the lesson discussion at home?
We have just finished an EPIC week at our church. Here is a little video I put together with highlights from this past week.
I am starting to plan for the fall & the events that we will do for this next ministry year.
To kick off the Christmas Season, we have a Gingerbread Party on the last Saturday in November. It is for families to build a Gingerbread House together. We have several stations that families can go to:
Gingerbread Station – all the ingredients needed to build a Gingerbread House. The house pieces are ready to be assembled. The icing is ready to go in a piping bag & there are 6-8 kinds of candies on each table for them to decorate their house with.
Craft Station – a fun foam gingerbread man ready to decorate. Glue & decorations ready to go.
Coloring Station – several options of Gingerbread people & houses ready for coloring.
Bounce House – to burn off some of that sugar.
Photo Booth – a professional photographer takes photos of families. They are emailed a link where they can download their pics.
Snack Station – home made sweet treats to have a little snack so they don’t eat all the candy before it gets on the Gingerbread House.
Take Home Bag – info about our upcoming Christmas Events at our church, Christmas stickers & coloring sheets.
This event is for church families & for families from the community. It’s a great opportunity for church families to invite non-church friends.
Family Dedications happen several times a year at our church. We hold this event on Saturdays from 4-5pm. Here’s what we do:
Dedication Service – We hold a 30 minute service where the dedication ceremony takes place. We have live music, video, & a talk from our lead pastor about parenting. This is also the time in the event where families who are participating come to the front, and make their commitment to raise their child to follow Jesus and grow in a relationship with Him. This service is family friendly. There are a lot of young children, so it’s not really a quiet event. I have preschool packages ready for children to pick up on their way in. This includes coloring pages (all about families of course), a pack of 4 crayons, stickers, goldfish and pipe cleaners to play with.
Reception – After the service, we have cake for everyone. We create an atmosphere for families to chat with their friends and family, and to get to know other families with children.
Excellence is found in the details. We want our families to feel like they have come to a first class event. Here are a few things that we include in every event:
Decorations – tablecloths & fancy decor as much as your budget will allow.
Food – we try to do a great job of this, so a 3 tier cake it is!
Frames – Each child receives a Frame that has been personalized with their name, photo, the date of the event, & the Bible verse that their parent’s chose for them.
Blessings Booklets – We hand make a Blessings Booklet for each child. Friends and family can write a prayer, poem, or special message for the child. Great keepsake.
Professional Photographer – We book someone to take photos of the event as well as family portraits. After the event, families can download these pics for free.
The following Sunday – We want the church to partner with these families as they raise their children. Because we have 4 services on a Sunday morning, we video the Dedication Event, and then show a 2-3 minute video of the families at the Dedication Event.
If you have any questions about how we run our event, feel free to comment below.
A few times a year we hold a Family Dedication Event. Instead of calling it a baby dedication, we call it a family dedication. It’s a chance for parents to:
#1 Publicly thank God for these children
#2 To commit themselves to raising their children to follow God
#3 To ask for God’s blessings on their children
#4 To ask the church to partner with them
We give each family a framed picture like the pic shown above. It’s a great keepsake of the day, and reminds parents of the commitment they made to raise their children in a God-honoring way.
We hold our events on a Saturday afternoon. To see photos and find out details about what we do at our dedication event, be sure to read “Family Dedications – Part 2”.
When you walk the halls in the kids area at Willow Creek Community Church in Chicago, you will find these pictures displayed. They are trying to encourage families to grow spiritually together. The visual images show examples of families serving together, or reading the Bible together etc. Many of the display boards include a Bible verse that families can read as they pass by. I love that it is a visual reminder to families that they can do things together as a family to grow spiritually.