Published: September 6, 2023
Pumpkin patches. Hot cocoa. Apples. And candy! When temps begin to drop, families at your church may start looking for these treats and other fall traditions and festivities.
Perhaps your church has always hosted a fall festival packed with these things and more. But this year, you just don’t have volunteer power needed to pull off a big event for your church and community.
Never fear! More ideas for volunteer-free family events are here!
You see, having fewer volunteers doesn’t force you to plan fewer family ministry get-togethers this year. These delightfully-doable ideas will help you bring families from your church together AND reach out to families in your community, too.
Perhaps one (or more) of these five easy fall ideas will work for you.
But first! Consider these registration tips for all family events:
Communication is key! No matter what you’re planning, clearly communicate dates, times, costs, and meeting locations, and ask families to register ahead of time so you can plan accordingly.
- Set up online registration through your church’s online database or use a free program like VBS PRO (it’s not just for VBS!).
- Or have families RSVP by email to let you know they’re coming.
- Or provide a sign-up sheet for several weeks at your church building.
Be sure to communicate that these events aren’t just for kids. Clearly set the expectation that parents attend these family events with their children.
Perhaps you’ll float the bill with your family event budget, or maybe it’s more feasible to ask families to chip in. Whatever you decide, be sure to communicate costs and make it as easy as possible for families to participate.
1. Fall Foliage Family Hike
Invite families to hit the trail for some fresh air, fall colors, and friendship-building! Kids and parents will get to know each other better as they hike through fall forests and enjoy God’s beautiful creation.
- Research and choose a family-friendly trail at a park or recreational area near your community. Some parks may have entrance fees, so plan accordingly.
- Find a friend and hike the trail ahead of time to confirm you know where to go, how long it will take, and that it’s kid friendly. Make sure there will be plenty of parking available at the trailhead.
- Clearly communicate where and when families should meet and what they should bring.
- Offer a word of prayer before you hit the trail, thanking God for a chance to be together and enjoy the time outside.
- Consider providing water and snacks for hikers to enjoy mid-hike.
- Have some tricks up your sleeve to keep weary kids (and grown-ups) engaged along the way. For example, try to find as many different colors of leaves as you can. Or look for trees shaped like letters of the alphabet!
- Be sure to pack extra water, bug spray, a first-aid kit, and sunscreen, just in case!
2. Pumpkin Patch Meet Up
Perhaps your church isn’t able to host a big fall festival this year. But farms and pumpkin patches in your community may be ready and waiting to welcome families from your church to their festivities. So plan a time for families to meet up at the farm for some pumpkin-filled fun!
- Research pumpkin patches in your area. Many offer a variety of activities for the whole family like pumpkin picking, corn mazes, and hayrides.
- Call the pumpkin patch ahead of time to tell them of your plans. Ask if, instead of during their busy weekend hours, they’d be willing to host families at your church at a specified time.
- If you do choose to meet up on a busy Saturday morning or afternoon, ask if there is a designated place where families at your church could meet and find each other.
- Clearly communicate where and when families should meet. Since parking lots at pumpkin patches can be full, consider carpooling or arranging special transportation.
- Families love a good fall photo! Be ready to snap pictures of families. Follow up after the gathering by texting photos to parents along with a “Thanks for coming!”
- If needed, provide a contact sheet where parents can provide cellphone numbers in order to receive their family’s photo. Compare your list to your church’s database to ensure you have the most up-to-date contact information for families.
3. Doughnut Dates for Families
What do you get when you combine parents, preschoolers, and your local pastry shop? A delightful reason to get out of the house and meet for sweets.
Choose a morning and invite moms or dads to meet up with other families for doughnuts. It’ll be a fun and easy family event with sprinkles on top! Plus, it’s a great way for young moms and dads in your church to spend time together—aside from drop off and pick up on Sundays.
- Pick a morning—it could be during the week or on a weekend.
- Choose a bakery or coffee shop with plenty of seating.
- Clearly communicate when and where families should meet.
- Encourage families who attend to choose and order their own doughnuts. If your church plans to foot the bill, work out those details with employees ahead of time.
- Provide some coloring sheets and crayons for kids, in case parents want to keep chatting after doughnuts are devoured.
4. Rake-N-Roll Leaf Cleanup
When leaves begin to fall, fall cleanup begins. So organize a family outreach event to help with fall cleanup in your community.
Consider who in your church family or community may need some help with leaf cleanup this year. Elderly members of your congregation? Single-parent families? Or individuals battling an illness? With these homeowners’ permission, invite families to bring their rakes and meet at homes for some raking and making family memories. You’ll reach out and share God’s love with these folks in a practical—and fun—way.
- Determine who needs help with leaf cleanup and ask if they’d be wiling to have families come to their homes to assist.
- Visit the homeowners and receive special instructions for how they’d like the leaves to be cleaned up.
- Ask the homeowner for permission to use their kitchen to prepare hot chocolate, apple cider, and treats for family members to enjoy.
- Communicate where and when families should meet and what they should wear or bring.
- Provide rakes, trash bags, and other tools needed. Don’t forget small rakes for young kids!
- When families arrive, give clear instructions and guidelines based on the homeowner’s wishes.
- In addition to working, plan some fun! Let kids (and grown-ups) take a break and jump into leaf piles periodically throughout the work time.
- Serve drinks and snacks.
- If appropriate, intentionally make time for families to meet, get to know, and pray for the people they are helping.
5. Chili Cook-Off
Encourage families to get out their crockpots and crank up the heat for a fall chili cook-off. You could host this event at your church or, if expecting smaller numbers, at a willing family’s home. This potluck-style event will bring out some competition as you bring families at your church together for fun, food, and fellowship.
- Invite families to make chili together and bring it to the gathering. Encourage families to come up with a name for their chili.
- Provide “fixings” like shredded cheese, sour cream, tortilla chips, and corn bread. Additionally, consider bringing some kid-favorite foods like macaroni and cheese and chicken nuggets.
- In addition to regular paper supplies, provide small, “tasting” cups or bowls.
- When families arrive, have them write the name of their chili contribution on a folded index card and place the card next to their chili.
- When it’s time to eat, pray and thank God for the food, then encourage families to sample each chili before choosing their favorite. People may vote for their favorite by making a mark on that chili’s index card.
- After everyone has eaten, add up the votes and announce the winning family of the chili cook-off.
Ready to help families fall in love with Jesus?
Although these family events don’t feature a program, Bible study, or memory verse, they do provide an opportunity for fellowship and community. Plus, you’re creating opportunities for families to fall deeper in love with your church family—ultimately Jesus!
Looking for fresh Christmas ideas for families, too? Check out this 12 Days of Christmas Devotion Kit!
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