How to Start a Backyard Bible Club

Welcome to the 31 Days of Global Missions with Kids series! You can view all the posts in the series here. Please remember that the goal isn’t for you to do ALL these projects, but rather pick one or two. You can download a printable worksheet here to guide you through discerning which project is best for you and the young people in your life.

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As I shared yesterday, for four years I was involved in a lovely ministry called Afternoon Blast, where leaders from our church operated a weekly children’s program on the lawn of an apartment complex about a mile away.

Today I’d like to share the practical how-tos of organizing an Afternoon Blast-style program in your own community. The typical term for this type of program is a “Backyard Bible Club,” which can refer to either a weekly club or a week-long VBS program during the summer.

In this post, I’ll mostly talk about the weekly club, but these concepts will also apply for a VBS program, and I’ve added some additional tips for a summer program at the end of the post.

how to start a Backyard Bible Club

 

4 Reasons to Start a Backyard Bible Club

1. You want to be involved in cross-cultural ministry to children. 

Though your Bible club doesn’t have to be aimed at cross-cultural ministry, it’s a great opportunity to try. Even if your church is not located in a cross-cultural neighborhood, you can launch your club in an area where there are a variety of other cultures.

2. You want to be involved in ministry to your own neighbors.

Many people host Backyard Bible Clubs in their own home or neighborhood. Here’s an example from Smartter Each Day, and I loved that she invited moms and kids in her own neighborhood to attend.

Whether you already know your neighbors and want to go deeper with sharing Christ, or whether you want to get to know your neighbors, a Backyard Bible Club is a great way to be involved in ministry from your own home.

3. God is reminding you of His call to “go and tell,” not just “come and see.”

It is easy for churches to fall into a mentality that “We’re here! If anyone wants to know Jesus, they can just come to our church!” We forget the call to “go and tell,” doing more than just inviting people to attractive events at our own church.

4. A Backyard Bible Club is simple and economical to lead.

After the initial start-up, our Backyard Bible Club took little weekly preparation and was practically free, with just a few expenses for supplies (soccer ball, crayons, clipboards) and the occasional snack – but most snacks were donated by church members.

afternoon blast 1

All about Our Backyard Bible Club

Our Backyard Bible Club was called Afternoon Blast.

Who Was There:  Usually it was me, one or both of our church’s children ministry leaders, and one to four other adult volunteers.

We had anywhere from 10 – 40 kids on any given Tuesday. They were mostly elementary-school-age, though a few were in middle school (and often brought homework to do), and a few were younger. For awhile we had a little one-year-old who just ran and ran and ran the whole time… he kept us busy!! 🙂

What We Did:

We would bring the supplies in the trunk of our car.  I usually organized the craft/coloring page area, so I had a tarp (in case the ground was wet) with a blanket to spread on top, a tub of clipboards, a box of crayons, and coloring pages stored in manila envelopes.

Our children’s ministry leader would bring some kind of game/sport (a soccer ball, cones for relay races, Frisbees, a soft Nerf football), along with a children’s Bible for our Bible story.  She also brought snack.

We followed a very simple, loose schedule:

  • 4:00 – 4:10 pm Arrival & get set up
  • 4:10 – 4:40 pm Activities: games, coloring/crafts, hang out
  • 4:40 – 5:00 pm Bible story & snack, departure

We sometimes followed a curriculum, sometimes just did random Bible stories.

For awhile, we were following the lessons that our at-church children’s program did during their weekly event. This worked to some extent, though sometimes the lessons were a little harder for this context.

One year, we used The Jesus StoryBook Bible to plan out a whole schedule. I liked this a lot. Each week we covered a new story. Prescheduling which story we would do each week helped because we could plan coordinating activities as possible.

I usually selected coloring pages or a craft that coincided with the story, and sometimes we could find a fun game that worked too. Sometimes we just read the Bible story (truthfully, The Jesus Storybook Bible was a little long for our context), and sometimes we planned out a lengthier Bible lesson… this one about the paralytic man was one of my favorites.

Snack time was always a highlight – every week we distributed some kind of prepackaged snack: often fruit snacks, pudding cups, bags of chips or Chex mix, but sometimes a special treat like homemade cookies or Popsicles. Typically, these were donated by church members who picked up an extra box at Costco, but occasionally paid for out of the children’s ministry budget.

We did have to make a rule that “we only give snack to kids who are here” because most children would want to take several so they could give one to their siblings, parents, or best friends.

When & Where We Met:

We met most Tuesdays from 4 to 5 pm at small lawn on an corner of the apartment complex. Children from the complex attended our program, including many refugee families.

We live in California so it was possible to meet outside year-round. I know this is a gift not everyone has! (Do you have a home or apartment community room where you could meet during the winter?) If it rained, we would just cancel till the following week.

 

For one or two summers, we also hosted VBS at the Afternoon Blast site (more on that below.)

 

 

Challenges we faced:

  • discipline among children, particularly 8-12 year old boys.
  • keeping attention during the Bible story
  • recruiting leaders to help. At our church, there was excitement from our members that someone was doing Afternoon Blast, but few wanted to join us to participate. Nearly everyone involved was a paid church staff person, or the spouse of staff.

If you haven’t already, read my post about refugee ministry for more about Afternoon Blast.

afternoon blast 6How to Get Started with a Backyard Bible Club

  1. Pray! As with any ministry, but particularly with this new-to-you style of ministry, prayer is vital.
  2. Form a team of leaders. Gather together to pray and discuss some of the following issues (purpose, location).
  3. Determine your purpose. This is key and will help you make some other decisions in this planning phase. Is your goal to disciple your own church’s children? To meet new families within your same demographic? To engage in cross-cultural ministry? To aid children of a certain ethnic group or economic status? To invite families to attend your own church? To expose families to Christianity for the first time? To get kids to become interested in your church so they’ll ride your church’s Sunday school bus to church each week?
  4. Choose a (potential) location. After you’ve determined your purpose, use that information to help choose a location. For example, if you want to engage in cross-cultural ministry, you’ll want to choose a location where people of other cultures live. If you want families to attend your own church, you don’t want to choose a location 30 minutes from your church.
  5. Prayer walk. I highly encourage you to prayer walk in the neighborhood of your potential location. Walk around with your team of leaders, and pray aloud as you walk. Pray for future ministry and for any people you see. Ask God to set up some opportunities for you to talk with people who live there!
  6. If needed, seek permission for your location. If your program is taking place at your own home, this is simple. However, if you hope to meet at an apartment complex or community room, you’ll need to meet with management. Pray ahead of time! Set up a meeting (or just drop by) and explain your goals. I’d focus on why this is good for the complex: keeps kids out of trouble, selling point for potential renters, you’ll pick up trash afterwards, etc.
  7. Think through legal stuff. Your church’s insurance should cover events that occur outside your church property, but you’ll want to double check the terms. Make plans to carry a first-aid kit with your Backyard Bible Club supplies.
  8. Invite children and families to participate. Walk through the neighborhood, handing out flyers and talking to people you see. Consider advertising with posters on community bulletin boards or  flyers on doors, if permitted (but don’t make a lot of trash! Maybe come back the next day and clean up any that have fallen to the ground). Personal invitations are really key, so if needed, walk through the neighborhood several times. Pray for an advocate within the neighborhood who will catch a vision and invite their friends and neighbors to participate.
  9. Plan lessons. Plan a few months of simple lessons – games, crafts, Bible stories, snacks, or whatever else you want to include. Keep it simple. Being outside or away from your home “turf” can be exhausting! You’re having to transport your supplies and figure out a new environment. So, choose fun stuff that will keep the kids engaged, but keep it as simple as possible.
  10. Start small. Don’t be discouraged if only a few children show up the first day. Put up a banner and balloons (or something to draw attention to yourself) and be prepared to invite anyone who walks by when they see you! (Even if they don’t have kids, tell them to invite any kids they know.)

afternoon blast 5

Additional Tips for a Summer VBS-style Backyard Bible Club

When I googled “Backyard Bible Club,” it seemed like many churches hosted Backyard Bible Clubs that only happened for one week in the summer, like a VBS program.

We did this with Afternoon Blast for a couple years (in addition to our weekly program) so I wanted to share some extra tips.

  • Schedule for a shorter amount of time and fewer days than your typical at-church VBS. If you are outdoors and not on your home turf (or, you’re actually at your own house and have to clean every day in preparation for Backyard Bible Club!), it will get wearying to do all five days of a typical VBS program. Skip a day or two of the curriculum and meet for three or four days. Also, schedule for less time than you meet at church. So, if you meet for three hours at church, schedule your Backyard Bible Club for just 1.5 – 2 hours. You won’t need to spend nearly as much time transitioning between stations, and you will likely not spend quite as much time on each activity.
  • Do a test-run at your own church first, if possible. We did a three day VBS at our own church the first week, then a second three-day VBS at Afternoon Blast the following week. It was good to have the kinks worked out at our own location first.
  • Host an event for the whole family. We didn’t do this with our summer program, but I wish we would have. We easily could have gotten a bunch of pizzas and concluded our final day of VBS with a pizza party for everyone. (Of course, BBQ would have been an option but would have required bringing grills – too much work!) Looking back, this would have been a great way to meet parents.
  • Think about how you’ll follow up. Will you use this to begin a weekly program? Or, do you already have a weekly program that could use more volunteer leaders? We had a few leaders who participated in VBS and then continued volunteering through the following school year.

afternoon blast 4

How to Involve Your Own Children and Teenagers in a Backyard Bible Club

For each post of this Global Missions with Kids series, I’ve been trying to point out specifically how to involve your children and teenagers… but this one seems pretty obvious. 🙂

Just bring your kids! They can play and participate just like any of the other children. If you have older children or teenagers, invite them to come along as leaders. Give them a purposeful and age-appropriate job to do.

Even after I stopped working at our church when my daughter was born, I remained involved in Afternoon Blast, often bringing her along with me. She would stay in her stroller or portable car seat, or I would put her in the Ergo carrier… the kids loved tickling her feet (though, they also loved handling her pacifier and sticking it back in her mouth! My new-mom-fears freaked out, but she never got sick!)

More questions? Want prayer?

If you are wanting to lead a Backyard Bible Club, please leave a comment below or email me (kelly{at}FaithPassedDown{dot}com.) I would be honored to answer any questions and pray for you and your ministry.

This Global Missions with Kids series is full of thoughts and practical ideas for serving Christ alongside your children and teenagers.

**Have you ever been a part of a Backyard Bible Club? Is it something you’d be interested in doing in the future? Leave a comment below.

2 thoughts on “How to Start a Backyard Bible Club

  1. Hi, I am investigating, and praying through, doing a summer BYBC. I liked your suggestion of doing a 3 day run. That’s what I was considering,😃 it has encouraged me to keep pushing forward. Our church has about 150 people, I shared my heart at my small group and we prayed, so far I still need to find someone interested in helping me. My “goal” is to share Jesus with my neighbors. I’m a cautiously interested in something come school year, it’s on the back burner. Thanks for publishing this.

    1. Thanks for the comment! Praying that the Lord leads you and your church family on His path… and that He provides someone to come alongside you!

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