For the Son of Man came to seek and to save the lost.
Luke 19:10

Monday, March 8, 2010

Inexpensive but Effective Outdoors Kids Work

Scott Hayes, gathering with the Christians at Cedar Falls, IA submitted the post below. He notes that in the States ‘Section 8’ Housing is all over the country, so there are plenty of opportunities similar to the one described below.

After a year of telling ourselves there was no place to have children's meeting in a nearby ‘70’ unit, (a subsidized housing complex) we finally took some action. We could see the place was full of kids, but totally void of fathers.

Inexpensive Summer Outdoors Outreach
Last summer we purchased a 10'x10' pop-up sun shade. We erected it on the grassy courtyard between some of the buildings. By the time we finished setting up on the first day we had kids milling about wondering what was going on.

Our only advertising had been to hang an announcement in the office with a picture of the tent and an explanation of who we were and what we would be doing. We started having meetings every night for a week and then went to one night per week. If it rained we would just wait a night. Everybody soon learned the obvious: if the tent was up, we were going to have a meeting.

It is a very difficult place to speak. As you can imagine, there are plenty of distractions. However, since we were outside we could get a little more creative with the types of games we played at the end of the lesson. The kids would help to put everything away and then we would get down to some serious playing. The only prizes we gave away were for necessary school supplies and everybody got the same thing.

What occurred after the meeting ended was probably the most important. Almost every night a few of us would stick around to play some ball, fix their bikes, or just hang out with them. Quite often this is when mothers would come wandering by and we were able to start building relationships, which is vital if we ever hope to see them attending any kind of a meeting inside a Gospel Hall. 

Transferring the Interest to the Fall Bible Hour in the Hall
Now it was time for the fall Bible Hour in the Hall. The goal then became convincing both the mothers and the children that it is okay to get in a van and go someplace else. If their response had been no, then I would not be writing this. But by this time we knew nearly all the kids by name and most of the mothers. We were able to assure them we were only moving what we had been doing outside to the inside. On the first night we were able to pick up about twenty kids.

Transferring the Contacts to the Regular weekly Sunday School
Now for the hardest part yet. Could we get them there for the regular Sunday School every week? I am happy to report that have been ten very regular students. Last week was our spring Children's Bible Hour with over twenty five attending some nights from the complex. But the story gets evening better. Just this past Sunday we were able to pick up four new kids for the Sunday School - to go along with the ten regulars!

There is not one traditional family in this complex and most are not going to a Sunday School of any kind. Since many of these mothers have more kids than money, the children are not enrolled in as many things as other children are. Many of these kids are craving love and attention. You had better be ready for a lot of hugs if you are going to try this. (*) If this has worked this well for us, it can work other places for you. I would call this a very low budget, high energy, fun project.

(*) An article on appropriate and safe contact with children will be posted at a later date.

Suggestions for using the 10' by 10' Sun Shield.
1. We used the tent mostly for identification purposes. When visiting early on, we would always refer to the tent to identify ourselves. A picture of the tent sun shield also appeared on any posters we put up. But best of all, whenever somebody saw the tent was up, they knew we would be having a meeting shortly.

2. Be flexible in place and time. We moved the tent around, in or out of the sun as necessary. Cold or rainy? Just don't put the tent up and stay home. And if in the middle of your lesson half the class goes home for supper, you will soon want to change the time.

3. Don't worry too much about the distractions all around. Keep focused on the main objective: to get these kids into your regular Sunday School class. In order for this to happen you must get the kids to like you (playing ball, games, showing a genuine interest) and the mothers to trust you (fix the bikes, be reliable). Time must be spent with them, and at their place.

4. Come up with a name! The Children's Bible Hour just seemed way to stuffy for this setting and we weren't calling ourselves anything, so of course the kids came up with their own name for us and called it "Outside Church". And to anyone who couldn’t remember my name, I was simply known as ‘the church man’.

Submitted by Scott Hayes, Cedar Falls, Iowa

No comments: