Summer Adventures: All Saints Dallas Kids
By Dr. Robin Turner, Director of Family Ministries at All Saints Dallas
This June, our All Saints Dallas Family Ministries team hosted two sets of nontraditional summer programming for families, crafted to accomplish our goals of fellowship and formation while taking into account some of our obstacles like low volunteer bandwidth and serving families who live across our whole metroplex.
Our first program, Summer Adventures, grew out of a desire to make time and space for play, fellowship and spiritual formation while respecting the limitations of our families. As a downtown church, we heard many families express that they would find it overwhelming to drive downtown every day for a week for a traditional Vacation Bible School, and many of our parents expressed that they would be unable to volunteer at the capacity it takes to run a whole vacation Bible school program. (Even a small-scale VBS with only 10-15 volunteers takes 200-plus volunteer hours to run!)
Instead, we chose to host weekly Wednesday morning gatherings from 9 a.m. to noon that families could choose to attend week by week. We started each day with morning prayer and worship in the sanctuary; then our sixth-12th grade students went to serve with local ministry partners while our preschool and elementary ministries participated in Bible lessons and activities like tie-dye, rocket launching and an exotic animal presentation. The staff was able to bear most of the burden of preparation while welcoming volunteers to offer support, and our budget was less than half of what we would have spent on a similar-size VBS.
We also wanted to offer an opportunity for families to participate together in a formation-oriented program, so we hosted two Pray as a Family evening gatherings. The goal of these times was to practically share some of the prayer tools in which our congregation has grown through NOVO so families could grow in applying them together.
For two consecutive Mondays, we hosted a pizza dinner and prayer training at the church; our first week focused on blessing prayer, and our second week focused on listening prayer. Here was our outline:
- 5:30-6:10 – Families arrived, ate together and listened to a testimony of how God had used the featured type of prayer in the life of a family.
- 6:15-6:45 – Preschool and elementary-age children were dismissed to age-appropriate lessons on the “why” and “how” of blessing and listening prayer. The adults learned from a couple in our congregation who had been implementing these prayer tools in their own family.
- 6:45-7:15– Families reconvened for a guided practice “lab” to pray together.
With the burden of prepping and cleaning up dinner taken away, families were able to find the bandwidth to drive downtown on a weeknight. By only having separate programming for 30 minutes, the children’s ministries team had a fairly “light lift” for teaching, and families truly experienced the evening together. We love that it normalized praying together—that whole families would connect with other families who are prioritizing the same spiritual formation in their own homes.
So, what would we do differently? Even with this balance, six events with six different registrations was a heavy lift for our Family Ministries team to tackle over a 21-day stretch. Our first Pray as a Family had over twice the attendance of our second evening, so we would probably scale back to doing just one in a season in the future. Our final Summer Adventures day turned into just a play day at a local splash pad due to building construction, and we loved the fellowship time with and for parents as they had to stay rather than just drop off their children. Additionally, I would love to explore play-based ways of focusing on Scripture memory and/or biblical literacy at a future Summer Adventure rather than just a themed Bible story.
We are so thankful for the ways God provided the time, space and families for a full, fun and fellowship-rich June for the family ministries at All Saints Dallas!
Robin Turner, DMin. serves as Director of Family Ministries at All Saints Dallas, overseeing programs for birth through high school. Her book, Children’s Ministry and the Spiritual Child: Practical, Formation-Focused Ministry, was released in June.