Four children bounced up and down on the chancel steps. They had returned, just the day before, from a week-long residential Christian holiday, with 45 other 8-10 year old boys and girls.
“What was the best thing?” I asked them.
Without hesitation two of them said in unison, “The theme park”, followed by “Messing around in the dormitory” and “The food”. Then one boy said, “Actually, everything!”
The benefits for the children
They were confident, exuberant and, quite frankly, it delighted the adults in the congregation and inspired children who next year would be old or confident enough to go themselves. I was thrilled to hear what they said. Some of these children have not been part of our church for long. This was their first exposure to any prolonged Christian input. Their experience of worship, Bible engagement or talking with God had been far richer than what we can provide on a Sunday morning or mid-week club. Some of them had never been away from their families for so long, so it had been an important developmental staging post – for them and their parents!
Next summer (or Easter or summer half-term) you too could be in my shoes!
This was a holiday arranged by one of several Christian organisations, who take the strain of organising a holiday for children in our Sunday groups. Well-organised, safe, reassuring for parents, reasonably priced, run by committed volunteers. Some of these organisations even have funds to pay for children whose parents cannot afford such a holiday.
The benefits for the leaders
I had gone as a leader with these four children. I had got to know them so much better. I had been part of a team of leaders where I didn’t have to take the initiative all the time (which is what I usually end up doing in our children’s ministry). I had picked up lots of different suggestions for games, activities, worship and leading discussion groups. I could reflect on my own practice in the light of what I was experiencing on the team. I ate good food, had lots of fun… and went home exhausted!
The benefits for your children’s ministry
December/January is the time to book a Christian holiday for 2013. Look out for brochures (online or hard copy). Prepare parents to think about the possibilities and if this is a new venture, pray that one parent will get the vision that will embolden other parents. Consider being a leader yourself and pray that another parent or Sunday group leader will want to go with you. It could revolutionise their faith and the children’s ministry in your church! Pray for children in your group, that they will be ready for such an adventure. Expect God to transform lives!
This coming summer I am hoping to take at least 6 children and one leader, and maybe some older children will go on another holiday. If younger children can go, so can they!