Over lunch today, I interviewed a good friend and creative leader, Diana Parker, about the experiment she tried in her children’s ministry last summer.  Diana and her awesome team decided to cancel their normal Vacation Bible School-type plans.  And it’s not because no kids were coming—in fact, just the opposite.  They packed the place out—but after years of listening, thinking and living Orange—they wondered if there was a more strategic play to make with their time and resources.
So Diana asked her leadership to let them spread the budgeted VBS funds out over all 8 weeks of the summer, instead of using it all at once for a huge blow out event lasting just a couple of days.  What they found was that their summer attendance was higher than usual.  Also, their numbers may have been smaller than if they pulled off a traditional event, but the ministry leaders had way more conversations and watched more parents engage with their kids than ever before.  I thought I’d share with you a few things Diana and her team tried last summer to make JUMP—one of our most recent Summer XP’s, such a hit in their world, in case you might like to shake things up in yours!
Before they started JUMP—they invited kids to attend a big pool party to kick things off.  All that took was reserving a community pool, spreading the word and bringing pool toys and snacks.  Then they dove in head first…
The first Sunday of JUMP—the kids all knew the second they walked in that this summer was going to be different.  The children’s space had been transformed and new things were added every week to keep the excitement high.
Some objects were meant to inspire actual jumping like jump ropes, pogo sticks, balls with handles that you can sit on and bounce, in addition to mini-trampolines.  The environment even had silhouettes of kids jumping plastered all over the walls.
They created a special photo booth with a trampoline.  A volunteer took pictures of the kids as they jumped, then added these action shots to a slide show that ran every week on the big screens as kids arrived and left.
A little JUMP Flair—Also the first time kids came, they got a lanyard and made their own nametag.  Then each week’s bottom line (always a key question in JUMP materials) was on a button and passed out.  Not to worry—if a child missed, they could read the story covered, tell their leader a main nugget and collect anyway.
Special Flair and JUMP Traditions—The leaders also hosted contests so kids could earn other types of buttons.  Like a Smiley face for jumping to a sound byte cue of Van Halen’s Jump song or a Camera if they took their jumping picture in the photo booth.  (FYI—this idea was from something similar we did at the Orange Conference last year—yet another reason to join us in Atlanta and get creatively inspired!)
The last Sunday of JUMP—Diana surprised the kids with 2 huge trampolines on either side of the large group space.  (These were later given away as huge prizes!)  And the kids were given copies of their jumping pictures to put on a big button to replace their nametag as they took it home for a keepsake.  They also wrote down their own question—what they thought God was asking them to JUMP and do next.
The JUMP Wrap Up—Finally, the team also planned 3 intentional celebrations that went along with their church’s whole mission—centered around Worship, Community and Mission.  This meant that on Thursday night kids and parents gathered for family worship.
Then on Friday night, they hosted a huge party that took over the whole church.  There was no check in so parents stayed with their kids and just played together.  They rented a giant Sky Jumper and big inflatables.  Families got glitter tattoos, took pictures, ate pizza and drank cold drinks from ice chests.
Saturday morning, the families met together at a local mission to put their faith in action.  They worked in the clothes pantry and put together bags of food for several hours.  It was a really meaningful time that parents were thankful to share.
Small Groups JUMP too– Diana ordered white Design-Your-Own Parachutes from Oriental Trading Company so that groups of kids and their leader could meet around these instead of rugs all summer.  Markers were set in the middle and they were used as a canvas to write what they were learning and what they wondered.
I hope you had as much fun hearing about Diana’s summer makeover as I did.  Click here to check out some of the highlights through this photo video.
The sky’s the limit this summer—so what one thing will you try or change to JUMP higher than ever before and to get a greater impact from your investment?
What are some other things not listed here that you’ve tried during the summer that you’d like to share to inspire other like-minded leaders?