We were flying by the seat of our pants last summer when we came up with the summer drive-in services. Our goal was to offer a weekly gathering of developmentally appropriate faith formation experiences for littles with their bigs in the vehicle so that our community wouldn’t grow accustomed to doing life without us, the local church.

Each week was a theme, a Jesus story, games to build visual, sticky memories for kids, and short teachings, with practice, for bigs to lead their littles in the holy habits of prayer, conversation, music, service, and play. At the end of the summer, we offered weekly camp chair meetings on Thursday evenings and Sunday morning programming in the parking lot. Still doing whatever it took for our families to not grow accustomed to doing life without us.

With the incredible fruitfulness of last summer of new families becoming active in our local church and already-connected-families growing more in relationship with each other and the local church, we chose to continue the summer drive-in services in 2021 in place of the typical vacation Bible school with edited criteria in mind: 

  1. Summer-long theme of We Are Family 
  2. Celebrate different members of our families
  3. Invite other ministries to be highlighted by serving and speaking each Thursday

The drive-in services we saw were for adults with kids in the car. Ours was for kids with adults in the car. 20-30 minutes in length (because it’s hot and considering the attention span of a little), at 6pm and 7pm (because families have different schedules), every Thursday rain or shine (because families need dependable and trustworthy expectations), and we just provide the environment (big visuals, kids want to come, parents/grandparents are the heroes, and we are just the coaches).

All of these have hit the mark. 

It’s the bonuses which have helped us sharpen our intentions moving forward:

  1. Every week we have new families.
  2. Every week our families are inviting other families.
  3. Every week we have purposeful intergenerational relationships growing through service similar, but greater than, a week-long VBS.
  4. Every week we have current ministries growing because they’ve had a new platform to introduce and ‘work the parking lot’ in extravagant hospitality with the community.
  5. Every week we have new servant leaders joining the children’s ministry team as they learn we are prepared, organized, have trustworthy systems, are irrational in hospitality and innovative faith formation. And we laugh our heads off.

What’s next? 

An innovation ideation team has formed to add to our Faith Milestone initiative… Faith Milestone: I Can Worship With My Family. 

We’ll start by bringing in the developmentally appropriate faith formation experiences of the summer to an indoor space filled with visually traditional elements for the first Sundays in October and December. Both Sundays lend themselves to intentionally using all five senses (World Communion, Advent). 

Resources we’ve studied include…

Mark Burrow’s Children First at Ft. Worth
First UMC, Sadie Wolfhart’s Children’s First in Bentonville, Arkansas, and Kevin Johnson’s UMC Discipleship webinar.
Children First: Worshipping with the Family

In answer to, “What’s in our hand?”, we have the original sanctuary we can use to make a small group feel like critical mass. We will have Ambassadors leading different elements, American sign language for the Apostle’s Creed and Gloria Patri, irrational hospitality by our families intentionally inviting another family they share life with to experience worship as a family. It’ll be an intentional on-ramp to what our much larger sanctuary service offers in the weeks immediately following the Faith Milestone. Other Faith Milestones are already in place, so this would be a place to practice all of those in a teaching environment for little people. Intergenerational in message delivery, doctrinally-sound energetic song choices with motions upper elementary kids will love, and in 45 minutes. With color and interactive throughout, older kids will serve, little kids will learn, new families to our rituals will share in the experience so that we learn in a safe setting not just that we gather but why we gather: Jesus.

All discipleship programming should offer an onramp or an invite to take the next step in discipleship, another relationship within the local church. How has your summer discipleship programming made a way for families to take their next steps in your faith community?

“Even when I am old and gray, do not forsake me, my God, till I declare your power to the next generation, your  mighty acts to all who are to come.” Psalm 71:18