Published: September 18, 2023
Use these four themed family nights as a way to bring kids and parents together for fun and faith-growing together in relationships with each other and with Jesus.
Everyone loves a party and everyone in your church and community is going to love these four family night ideas! It’s the perfect opportunity for connecting families at your church. It’s also a great opportunity to demonstrate that church can be fun for everyone, not just the kids.
Family Night Idea #1: Lifesize Candy Land
Create an experience for parents and kids to leap into a sweet family adventure. Families will engage in the environments of the popular Candy Land board game as they learn about the Prodigal Son. This event will remind families of the sweet blessings in their lives and offer families a takeaway challenge to embrace people who need mercy.
Before the Event
Instead of helping the Kandy King get home, families see the lost son from Luke 15 get home. Don’t roll those dice until you do the following things, though!
Create invitations using an email campaign with a candy-theme. Here’s a downloadable invitation template! For print invitations, use the same template with the information and a piece of candy attached to it. Encourage each family to come dressed in the same color to represent their family’s “playing pieces” for the board game.
Create life-size candy decorations to hang from the ceiling in various areas: For lollipops, attach round Mylar balloons to gift-wrap tubes. Create “hard candy” by wrapping round pieces of flat Styrofoam with colorful cellophane and tying ribbons on each end. Use large candy cane Christmas yard ornaments to create a candy cane forest and purple balloons to create plums. Put brown butcher paper across the floor as a chocolate swamp. Then use colored poster-board squares to create a colorful path of board game squares.
During the Event
There’s nothing sweeter than playing a board game together as a family—especially when it’s life-size and ends with learning like this!
Welcome to a Sweet Celebration
As families arrive, explain that they’ll move through the game board to get a lost son home. At each station along the way, families will experience something together.
Grandma Nut’s House
Have someone dressed up as Grandma Nut sitting in a rocking chair. Grandma Nut retells the story of the Prodigal Son in a creative way. Form small groups with two families and have families stand and face each other. In each small group, have one family be the actor and the other family be the mirror. As Grandma Nut reads from Luke 15:11-19, the actor family acts out the Scripture while the mirror family mirrors the actions. Then have families change roles as Grandma Nut reads Luke 15:20-32. Afterward, have small groups discuss:
- Why do you think the father acted the way he did in the first part of this story? in the second part of the story?
- Explain who you are most like in this story: the father, the son who returns, or the older brother.
- How can our family show mercy or compassion to one another?
The Lollipop Woods
Set lollipops into a foam block—but first color some ends of the lollipop sticks with a marker (about one-third of them). Have each person take a lollipop. Whoever chooses one with a colored stick receives a full bag of lollipops. Have families discuss the following questions around the theme of the inheritance given to the Prodigal Son:
- What’s it like when somebody gets what you really want—like the bag of lollipops?
- What are some things in your family that no one can ever take away, such as love or patience? Think about these things as inheritances.
- What’s something you hope to inherit from your parents? something you hope to pass on to your children?
Have families create beaded bracelets as they discuss the things or people that make their lives “sweet.” Before they leave this station, have family members write or draw the thing that makes their lives sweet on the butcher paper that represents the chocolate swamp.
At this station, families brainstorm how to show mercy to people after the event, just as the father did when his son returned home. Have families decorate construction paper circles to look like their favorite candy. Then have families each create a reminder to show mercy in the upcoming week by writing what they’ll do on the back of their candy. Invite families to pray together, committing to encourage and support one other as they show mercy to the person they chose.
The Ice Cream Sea
Conclude your evening by having families create a huge banana split sundae! Line up plastic bowls along a counter or row of tables. Let each person have three scoops of ice cream, a banana, and a variety of toppings such as graham cracker crumbles, crushed fruit, cherries, and chocolate. Take a photo of the entire group in front of the “Ice Cream Sea” before everyone digs into their sweet snack.
Ending the Event
As families leave, give each one a chocolate bar with a wrapper that reminds them to show mercy to others and each other during the week. Here’s a downloadable candy wrapper. Also, give them a card they can turn in later to redeem a copy of the photo from the banana split event.
Family Night Idea #2: Winter Olympic Fun Night
Use this theme to help families discover that we’re part of the larger (global) body of Christ and that we’re all given different gifts. Teach families to go for the gold by embracing the diversity of people from other cultures while they learn about missions and outreach in a fun, interactive way.
Before the Event
Just as athletes prepare to win in an international arena, help families win internationally, too—by getting involved in missions. Do these things first.
Meet with your missions team prior to your event to determine which cultures you want to highlight that’ll complement the missions organizations or missionaries your church supports.
Create an event page on Facebook to invite families online. For printed torch invitations, insert your invitation into a tube. Glue a gold flame to the edge of the invitation so people can pull on the flame to get the invitation out of the tube. For extra impact, host this event during the Winter Olympics.
Capitalize on the Olympic theme by cutting out large circles to represent the Olympic logo. Create large medals out of gold and silver poster board. Hang world maps and flags from different countries.
During the Event
Don’t forget to stretch before this event; you wouldn’t want to pull a muscle!
Play the Olympic theme song while people enter your event. As families arrive, give each family a felt triangular-shaped flag in one of the following colors: red, green, yellow, blue, or black. These flags will help families form teams with other families based on the same flag colors for the evening. Once families have formed their color-coordinated teams, allow time for them to come up with a team name and cheer to chant before each event.
Families can participate in the following games to encourage them to work together for a common goal. Have families travel to these stations in their color-coordinated teams.
One parent must carry all of his or her children across the room to the finish line (families will have to be creative with this game!). Once a parent reaches the finish line, the next parent carries his or her “torch” of children across.
Each team will need a large cardboard box. Have teams line up at one end of the room and push one child to the finish line and back in the cardboard box. Then the next child goes until all children have been pushed in the sled. (If you live in a climate with snow, consider having real sled races.)
Use sheets of waxed paper to wrap around people’s socks so they can easily “skate” across a carpeted surface. Consider relay races with these waxed skates around a roped-off track.
Lay a large plastic tarp on the floor for an icy relay. Each team encourages its team members as they relay a block of ice to the end of the tarp and back again, using a broom to move the ice block.
Invite your missions department to host this area. Families stop here to write notes of encouragement to the missionaries you support overseas and locally. Consider setting up stations where families can pack care packages for missionaries.
After an evening of fun competition, this is where all your athletes eat. Serve appetizer-sized portions of foods from local ethnic restaurants, such as spring rolls, pizza rolls, meatballs, mini hamburgers and bratwursts, sushi, or teriyaki chicken kabobs. Offer after-dinner drinks of hot cocoa and marshmallows or hot green tea.
Ending the Event
Create placemats on 11×17-inch paper that shows a world map marked with the locations of missionaries your church sponsors. Include a short prayer at the bottom so families can remember to pray for these people or organizations at mealtime. Laminate the placemats for more durability.
Family Night Idea #3: March in March
There are all kinds of great marches and race events with the purpose of raising money for charity. The March of Dimes, March for Hunger, Race for the Cure—you name it, it’s out there. This spring, plan to offer families a “March in March” event to raise awareness and provide opportunities for families to make an impact in their community by partnering with a local charity.
Before the Event
Forward, march! Wait! Don’t step out without these practical tips.
Find out which organizations in your area do some kind of march or race at this time of year. Consider partnering with one of these organizations. Then get information, fliers, and registration forms to share with your families. Ask the organization’s leaders to attend the event and host a display table where they can speak personally to families and register them on the spot.
Use evite.com or social networking sites to get the word out at no cost. For printed invitations, use footprints as your visual theme. Decorate your halls and stairwells with footprints leading to an information table with fliers and a sign-up sheet for your event.
Again highlight footprints cut out of colorful construction paper as a main decorating item. Hang colorful race flags around your entrance. Use race numbers to identify your event stations.
During the Event
On your mark, get set, and go with these ideas for the day of your event.
The Starting Block
As families arrive, have supplies for them to each decorate a family footprint that represents their interests or personalities, such as fish for a dad who enjoys fishing or happy faces for a daughter who’s the family comedian. When they’re done, have families place their footprints on a “Families on the Go” display.
Families will recreate the account from Joshua 6 of how Joshua led the people of Israel as they marched around the walls of Jericho. Have families join together to march around a tower of cardboard boxes set up in your event area. As families march, have them shout, “One!” up to “Six!” for each time they circle the boxes. On the seventh time around, tell families to make trumpet noises as they march, and then have the youngest member of each family approach the wall to topple the boxes down after they shout, “Seven!” Remind families that the walls went down because God honored Joshua’s commitment to follow God’s instructions. In the same way, we can commit and follow through to make an impact in our community.
Set up these stations where families can interact with other families and your community organization as they learn to live out a commitment to service.
Allow the organization you’ve partnered with to share ways families can partner with them. Encourage the organization to offer opportunities for families to sign up immediately.
Race Day Energy
As part of admission to your family event, ask families to bring supplies to make trail mix, such as toasted oats cereal, M&M’s candies, raisins, cheese-flavored crackers, or chocolate chips. At this station, families can help assemble small bags of this energizing snack to hand out to participants when they complete the race course.
Have families write notes of encouragement to people who work and volunteer with the organization you’re partnering with.
Getting to Know You
Create a People Bingo game, where family members gather initials from those who match the bingo square description. If it’s a match, people sign the square.
You’ll need 20 squares on your sheet with a different description in each square. To make this even more impactful, have some of the squares fit the charitable organization. For example, if it’s an adoption agency, you might have one of your squares read, “I was adopted or I know someone who was adopted.” Other squares could include “likes pizza,” “ate cereal this morning,” and “brushes teeth twice a day.” Be creative and have older people help young children fill their cards.
Serve foot-shaped cookies and fruit punch. Set out supplies such as icing, flavored cream cheese, candy sprinkles, licorice strips, and raisins for people to decorate one cookie for themselves and one to leave on a cookie exchange table.
Ending the Event
Send families home with ideas to revisit what they’ve experienced. Provide a take-home sheet with the contact information for your event’s featured organization. Provide ideas for families to serve in their community together.
Family Night Idea #4: Surf’s Up Party
Surf’s up, dude! Families can kick off the summer or beat the winter blues with this beach-themed party that’ll also remind them of God’s protection.
Before the Event
Before your families can catch a wave, you’ve got some serious getting ready to do! Start with these ideas.
Create a Facebook event page that includes a great surfing photo and all the details for your family event. For invitations to distribute, print colorful beach ball invitations. Then use a die-cut machine to easily cut them into circles. Encourage families to dress in their favorite Hawaiian shirts, dresses, or boardshorts.
Hang beach balls and fishnets from your ceiling. Lay down a large tarp and place a couple of plastic play pools filled with sand and sand toys on top of the tarp. Play a surfing movie by displaying on a big screen or wall, and play Hawaiian music as families arrive.
During the Event
Welcome families with an “Aloha” greeting and have them all shout it back to you before they start to rotate through these tropical stations.
Havin’ a Ball
Use this game to help families get to know each other by name. Have everyone stand or sit in a circle, and begin with one beach ball that people each will hold as they introduce themselves by name. Have the first person take the beach ball, say his or her name, and then toss it to someone else, saying that person’s name. Continue until everyone has had a turn. Have families repeat the game, trying to toss the ball in the same order. For extra fun, add one or two more balls to make it fast-paced and a bit crazy.
Have family teams create sand castles in the play pools, with kids competing against their parents to see who can build the tallest or widest castle.
Hit the Beach Relay
Have families form two teams. At one end of the room, have a beach chair and a beach bag filled with the following items for each team: XXL Hawaiian print shirt, XXL boardshorts, a lei, a pair of sunglasses, and a straw hat. Each team will also need a digital camera and a person assigned to be that team’s photographer. On “go,” a member from each team races to the team’s beach bag, puts on all the items in the bag, sits in the beach chair, has a photo taken, removes everything, puts it back into the bag, runs back to “start,” and tags the next team member to go.
Families can create their own tuna boat snacks by cutting green peppers in half, filling them with tuna salad (you can offer chicken salad as an alternative), and topping each one with a triangular cheese slice and toothpick for a sail.
When families are finished rotating through the stations, bring everyone together for a retelling of the account of God parting the Red Sea. Use the “Red Sea Run” experience below to get everyone into this.
Red Sea Run
Have the people on the front row come follow you. Say to your followers: Just follow along with me by doing the actions I do.
To the crowd, say: Everyone crowd into the aisle here. Tighter! And tighter! You’re the Red Sea. You, here in the front, you’ll be the leader for the Red Sea. You create motions for everyone else to follow—just like a sea! Instruct the Red Sea leader to lead everyone who is making up the sea in the “wave” just like fans do at sporting events.
Say: When we start running through you, you have to part the Red Sea and move people out of the aisle!
Say to your followers: Let’s pretend we’re Moses and the Israelites. We want to get out of Egypt—FAST! Run in place. Look behind you! Turn and look behind. Oh, no! Here comes Pharaoh’s army! Slap your hands on your thighs to make a sound like galloping horses.
Yikes! We’re scared! Keep running! Pant and pretend to run.
Now look ahead! Hold your hand over your eyebrows as if you are scouting ahead.
Oh, no! Water! Just one big sea of water. Nowhere to run. Nowhere to hide. Help us, God! Fold your hands in prayer.
The water’s parted! Open your arms wide. Come on! Let’s go between the walls of water. Run through the crowd as the crowd parts.
Yay! Lead the Israelites in a happy cheer!
Afterward, encourage families to discuss:
- Where do you need God’s help like Moses did?
- How can our family help you trust God in that area?
Ending the Event
As families leave, have a limbo stick for them to pass under, and as they limbo, have people shout, “God protects me!” Give everyone a pair of plastic sunglasses with a note attached saying, “God always offers us protection.” Also give each family a card to redeem at church for a photo from the event.
Looking for more ideas for families? Check out these articles!
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