Holiday Clubs - Last Minute Tips
It’s nearly June, and summer holidays are just around the corner. Whether you're in the final stage of your 70-point, detailed holiday-club-implementation-strategy, or have completely forgotten to plan anything at all. Alex Taylor has gathered pearls of wisdom from children's ministry experts, to help you on your way.
Storytelling by Bob Hartman
1 . Be playful!
I can’t emphasise this enough. Storytelling is all about ‘play’ – playing with the story and inviting the children to play along with you. So have fun, enjoy the experience, and set the tone with a cheeky smile on your face. And, yes, I know you might be doing the crucifixion, which will have to be more serious. But if you have had a playful time up to that point, you will have earned the right to ask everyone to be quiet and still for this story.
2 . Give your audience something to do
The more they do – in terms of actions or sounds or expressions – the more they will be engaged, and the better they will pay attention. Better still, the meaning of the story will find its way more deeply into their lives, because they will have ‘experienced’ it and not just listened to it.
3 . Keep it simple
The best participation is often the simplest. Something quick, funny and easy to teach is better than something complicated and longwinded. If you want it to be funny, make sure you think it’s funny first. And then teach it to them with a slightly goofy grin, like you’re letting them in on a joke.
Bob Hartman is an expert storyteller and features on the Mega Makers DVD (Scripture Union)
Music by John Hardwick
Catchy tunes and simple words in a song can stay in your head for days, weeks, years, and a lifetime. Songs are essential in holiday clubs! Children enjoy songs, and they can be used to teach spiritual truths in a fun and creative way. But it is important to remember that many children will not have a Christian background, so choose songs carefully, avoiding difficult Christian language and inappropriate lyrics.
It’s good to include:
A theme song – a song that fits the theme and teaching of the holiday club and is sung daily.
Action songs – that help children remember the words and add to the fun.
The ‘Big Bible verse challenge song’ – a Bible verse with a catchy tune with crazy actions!
Use these to complement other quieter, more reflective songs. Holiday club leaders often say that hearing the children learning and singing the Bible with such enthusiasm is one of the highlights of holiday clubs.
It’s wonderful to have a band with people to lead actions but please remember to take this seriously and meet together to pray and practise the songs – children deserve the best. If you don’t have singers and musicians you can still use songs – there are many resources available.
John Hardwick has written many holiday clubs and lots of songs! His most recent programme is Cops and Robbers (published by BRF)
SMALL GROUPS by Maggie Barfield
‘Time to go to your small groups!’ shouts the presenter. Is this going to be the wellmeant- but-a-bit-tedious part? It needn’t be…
Making your small group time the best it can be starts with your team. Do you hear them saying: ‘I’m just doing a small group’? The group leaders set the tone so if they are anticipating it being a great time, it will be! Different: yes. But different isn’t the same as dull.
Take advantage of the opportunity to build relationships with the children, where you can chat and get to know each other. This is where there’s time for children to trust more, to start to open up about what they’re gaining from the club, what they may be struggling with, things they don’t understand, and how their relationship with God is changing.
Make the most of the change of pace. The small group is where each child has a sense of identity, experiencing a positive time in a secure and happy environment. It’s where it’s ok to ask questions and to express thoughts, feelings and reactions. There’s time to wonder, ponder and to explore issues that emerge, together: this is when a small group comes into its own.
Lead by example – by not leading! Foster a sense of us all exploring the Bible as fellow-learners. As each person experiences more about God for themselves, they’ll be translating it into something that makes sense for them and their world.
Maggie Barfield is product developer (ProjectCUBE) for Scripture Union
SAFEGUARDING by Simon Bass
Children’s workers will always want to ensure all children attending holiday clubs are kept safe and secure. This is no easy task, given the energy expended in all of the activities. Not only should the organisers of the holiday club ensure that health and safety is adhered to but there are additional, and very important, safeguarding considerations too.
It is likely that you’ll have enlisted additional workers for the holiday club, so ensure you follow best practice in relation to safe recruitment. This includes undertaking DBS disclosures where appropriate. Have clear role descriptions, and give guidelines on best practice, including appropriate boundaries and touch.
Registration of children and obtaining consent from parents is vital, since it may be the first time a child or their parent has come into the church – it will give confidence to the parent. Think through how you will deal with children who may arrive unaccompanied, or with adults who don’t have parental responsibility for the child. Have a clear safe collection procedure at the end of the day, as this is often the busiest time.
Look at your adult to children ratio – if you have young people under the age of 18 on your team, they are counted as children. You will need to ensure you have enough adults to cope with this extra group of ‘children’.
Recognise that children may find the more relaxed times at a holiday club a place where they can open up to leaders, about concerns they may have, and this could include disclosures of abuse or other harm. Ensure that everyone knows the correct procedure to follow and who the safeguarding officer for the holiday club is.
Simon Bass is CEO of the Churches Child Protection Advisory Service (CCPAS)
WELCOMING FROM OUTSIDE YOUR COMMUNITY by Helen Franklin
The key to welcoming children and families from outside the church community is to put yourself in their shoes. Think through everything about the club, from how you might hear about it, through to what you will make of the Bible, as if you have never been inside a church, and as if you know nothing of Jesus. Use these questions to help you:
Venue and access. Would it feel more comfortable for you in a neutral venue such as a school or community hall, rather than a church? Will there be interesting and colourful decorations that catch your eye and attention? How (literally speaking) will you find your way in? (Sticky back plastic footprints from gate to door are brilliant!)
Arriving and settling in. Do the leaders talk to you and learn your name, or do they seem busy chatting to children they already know? Are you expected to know where the toilets are, or do they tell you? Does it feel as if everyone else knows the songs, the actions and where the to put jokes in the box, or do people help you feel part of things?
Words and ways. Are the words that are used ordinary, everyday language, or special words that only make sense to people who go to church every week? And do the people behave towards you in the way that Jesus, whom they say is so special, cared for the people he met?
Helen Franklin is church and community development worker for Scripture Union in Wales, and author of Champion’s Challenge holiday club (Scripture Union)
SETTING THE SCENE by Alex Taylor
No matter how large or small your venue, it’s important to set it up so that it makes a positive first impression on the children. A well-designed space raises expectations, creates an atmosphere of fun and shows how much you value those who attend.
Think big! A3 sheets of paper may appear large in your living room, but will be dwarfed in a church building or school hall. Paint backdrops (be it – an inventor’s workshop, a sports stadium or a police station) onto rolls of wallpaper or sheets. Gather large boxes to use as props – ask your church congregation to start saving them. If you’re using a projector, make sure you fill the screen at all times. Project pictures that link with your theme when you’re not showing song words or a DVD.
Give each group a space to call their own – this could be in the main hall or another part of your venue. Provide materials for them to decorate and personalise their space. Provide something that links with the theme, maybe a pop-up tent or a wind-break. You need to make sure that each group’s space works as a place where they can chat together, explore the Bible and pray. Don’t let design overtake purpose!
Remember the rest of the venue – the entrance is important, as both parents and children will make judgements on the first thing they see. Make it enticing and have some leaders around to welcome families and address any worries that parents or children might have when they arrive.
TEAM PREPARATION By Charmain Cooper
No doubt, you’re in the process of building your team – it’s vital that you get the right leaders for the many roles that need filling. Take the time to find out what people like and are good at (and also what they dislike and aren’t good at) so that you don’t ask someone to do something they’d feel awkward doing. For example, during registration, especially on day one, make sure there are lots of people around to give a warm and friendly welcome to new parents and children. However, not everyone is good at speaking to new people – team members who find speaking to new people difficult can do important tasks such as filling in forms or creating badges.
Can you involve the young people who are too old to participate in the activities but are not old enough to have a leadership role? It is easy for them to feel left out and giving them a particular task is a great way of training them up. They will need plenty of support, but can be a very useful extra pair of hands. Including them in all the preparation meetings ahead of the event will help them feel useful.
As you train your leaders, guide them to get in there with the children. Sitting on the floor with children helps everyone to feel part of what is going on, keeps order and enables team members to lead by example. If the team is enthusiastic and takes part wholeheartedly, children will feel more able to engage with the programme, start to form relationships and meet God.
Charmaine Cooper is the author of Planning a Holiday Bible Club (Go Teach)
Lots of tips, lots of advice. Make the most of this knowledge and experience and see where you can put it all into action. Of course, the end of the club isn’t the end of your ministry to the children who have been part of your week. Head over to the Premier Childrenswork website for more on what you can do next. And you may have lots of lessons learned from running holiday clubs in the past – add your own wisdom to the comments and give others a helping hand!
By the way, have you bought enough biscuits? Just a thought…