Summer stress is a real thing. Chances are your community has high expectations for what you should be doing. I know I can’t make it through a summer without getting numerous recommendations of what we should have done. More and more Children’s Ministry can barely continue with normal programming. Then they end up stretching their volunteers even more to make a VBS happen. Don’t get me wrong, I loved VBS as a kid and would do it in my current church. However, I want to make sure all Pastors, Directors, Volunteers know that if you don’t do one that’s okay. In fact I think there are plenty of great ways to engage your church and community without doing VBS. Here are four things I’d encourage you to consider this summer:

IDEA #1: Encourage Evangelism

Stop giving kids the summer off from sharing their faith. I have noticed a trend where every year evangelism gets pushed in the fall, but then summer comes and expectations are lower. If the goal is discipleship and growth with kids over the summer, I’d love to see a trend start where the Children’s Ministry community begins to create kits, booklets, etc. equipping kids to share their faith over the summer.

Take a Step: Okay, so you don’t have time to make a packet this summer, neither did I. This year make evangelism a communicated expectation. Let the kids know that you want them to look for ways to share their faith.

IDEA #2: Engage with Your Community

A secret goal of mine is that I want to become best friends with the parks department. Admittedly I’m not there yet, but trust me it’s a goal. Consider serving your community by helping the parks department out. You might not be able to share the Gospel, but I’m sure they have lots of needs that you can help meet. Then maybe one day the church is helping the city to host events for families. Note: If the parks department doesn’t work, find out who your alderman is. Engage with your churches neighborhood by finding out what things with which you can help.

Take a Step: Extend a hand. Summer is coming up fast, chances are schedules are set. Do something small for your community, and begin to build that relationship.

IDEA #3: Equip the Family

VBS or not, consider the time families gain in the summer. Even if they don’t travel, most families take some time off to be together. Consider creating a few different family packets of things your family can do around your city. Create a service oriented one, a prayer one, a fun day that has planned Christ connections in it, etc. Then pass out sheets with these plans to families, encourage them to do them, and then share their experience.

Take a Step: Choose some test families, give them one idea, and get their feedback. See how it goes over or what ideas they might have.

IDEA #4: Embrace Neighborhoods

This last idea is possibly the most out of the box and could be incorporated into the three above. Create a reason for families to have their neighbors over. Buy a snow cone machine, offer to rent a bounce house, get a huge slip-in-slide, or whatever would excite a neighborhood. Then partner with families by giving them a way to break the ice with their neighbors. Give the families in your church a reason to knock on their neighbors door after five years of not talking.

Take a Step:  Do your research. Find out what that thing is that will break the ice. Then ask for the extra money in your budget to buy it for next year.

VBS isn’t the only option and may not be the best option for your church to reach families for the Gospel. If nothing else, I hope my ideas help you to dream and plan different ways to engage your community. What are you doing to engage your community this year? I’m always dreaming and searching for inspiration.