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

Saturday, May 24, 2014

Gym Nights and Outreach Activities – Englehart, Ontario

For the last number of years, the assembly in Englehart, Ontario has run a regular children’s outreach call Gym Night.  We use the gym at the local public school. (We are very thankful that school board in our area allows community groups to use the schools after hours.)  We begin each school year by sending invitations to the community, advertising that Gym night is starting again for the fall.  We have used the postal service as well as a booth at the local Fall Fair to distribute these invitations.  The invitation that is most effective is the personal invitation, speaking to the kids and parents as we meet them in the community and the kids inviting their friends.

Gym Night is advertised for 1 hour but we open the gym a half hour before starting time, for the kids to have free time to play.  This time allows us to ‘hang out’ with the kids, get to know them and spend time with them, just shooting hoops, turning the skipping rope, chatting about their day, etc.  It also allows them to run around for a bit before they are asked to sit and listen to the lesson. 

            The structured time includes
1.      Singing a few well known Sunday School songs
2.      Teaching a verse
3.      Sharing a Bible Story
4.      Playing gym games for about half an hour (plus crafts/activities for the younger kids).

We have noticed that so many kids from the community have no Bible knowledge at all, so we have consecutively taught the major Bible Stories – it takes about 3 years to start at creation and work through to the end of the Book of Acts, then start over.

We try to get Gym nights started ASAP at the beginning of the school year, in general “If there is school on a Tuesday, there is Gym night Tuesday evening.”

The rules of Gym Night are as follows:
1.      Respect God
2.      Respect Each Other
3.      Respect the school

During the year we have 2 special Gym Nights
1.      “Christmas Party” which includes Christmas Carols, a Christmas message and cookie decorating and then eating.

2.     “Year End Party” (like a Sunday School picnic - at the same time and place as Gym Night usually is held) – we hire a French Fry Truck and serve everyone French Fries, Hamburgers, etc. then (weather permitting) have the message outside in the school yard, followed by outside games.

Over the years, kids have started coming when they are quite young and would continue into their late elementary school years.  As we noticed this happening we were burdened to encourage these older kids to continue to come and listen to the Word of God.  So we began a “Teen and Tween Night” on a Friday Night once a month.  We started by inviting the Gym night kids who were in Grade 6 and older – and told them to invite their friends.  We use Facebook, email, personal invitations, to contact these Teens and their families to let them know when and where the next Teen Night will be.

The schedule is very flexible, each night is different but the general structure is about an hour each for:
1.      Eating supper
2.      Singing and message,
3.      Enjoying some activity and social time. 
(The order may vary, which helps keep interest)

The kids really look forward to the meal – we try to have good homemade food (turkey or roast beef dinners, fresh bread, homemade pizzaor pies, etc.).  For the singing we have a power point presentation that is just for Teen night, it includes a few older hymns but mostly newer hymns that are full of the Gospel.  The Gospel is the main focus of the message since so many kids that come are not yet believers.  After the message we plan some type of fun activity and time to just hang out and have fun together. 

1.      spaghetti supper & gym games (volleyball, basketball, dodge ball, etc.) at the school gym
2.      baseball game & BBQ at the ball field
3.      skating at the local arena – then to a Christian’s home for pizza
4.      Progressive supper to the Christians homes.
5.      Group games – such as “Four on the Couch”, “Pictionary”, “Charades”, “Win it in a Minute” games, etc.
6.      Turkey dinner, Christmas carol sing at a nursing home then assembling & decorating Gingerbread houses.
7.      Board games – often during sports for the kids that don’t enjoy sports.
8.      Mystery meal (make up menus with strange names for normal food, the kids order off the menu, and ‘solve’ what items they want to order – Lots of Fun!)
9.      Snowman building contests
10.  Hiking in the local park and camp fire
11.  Photo Scavenger hunt.

These outreaches draw the assembly together and give every willing person a job to do.  There are many different ways believers can be involved in this work, some are obvious, and others are not as obvious but just as necessary:

o   The men that do the speaking.
o   Those that play the games with the kids and befriend the kids and their families.
o   The ladies that cook the meal and serve the kids at Teen Night.
o   The sister that plans the crafts for Gym Night.
o   Keeping attendance, getting permission forms, etc.
o   The sister that babysits the younger kids during teen night so their parents are free to run the outreach.
o   The young believers who invite their school friends and then hang out with them.
o   The sister that books the gym and makes arrangements with the school.
o   The senior couple that bring juice boxes every week to Gym night.
o   The believers that attend and supervise the hallways during Gym Nights. 
o   The people that donate candies, treats, food, and cookies to special Gym Night events.
o   The many believers that contribute financially to the groceries for Teen Nights.
o   Sending out invitations, by mail, email, Facebook, etc.
o   The support of the ‘front line workers’ in interest, general prayer and encouragement.
o   Those not physically able to attend but ask for a copy of the attendance list so they can pray specifically for each child, parent & teen!

As a result of these outreaches to the children and Teens of the community, families have been contacted.  Parents & Grandparents often come and are happy to listen to the message as it is presented to the kids.  Many souls young and older have heard the gospel at these outreaches over the past few years.  Some adults have been saved and come into fellowship in the local assembly as a direct result of their kids coming to Gym night and Teen night.  Most of the young people in this small community have heard the gospel at least once and a few have professed to be saved.  As well, we have contacted believers in the community that are looking for Christian fellowship.  God is working and His word is not returning void.

For more information contact Karen Marshall 

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