You never thought this day would come, but after weeks of planning, perspiration and waking up in the middle of the night to scribble something on a “to do list” it is DONE. The Light Party is over for another year . . . well, yes it might be – but now is not the time to coast towards Christmas (argh, Christmas is nearly here!) What kind of follow up do you need to stay engaged and connected with those who have come along to your light party? How can you inspire those you already know? How can you maintain the connection with new kids and families?
Well, before I get in to those a quick mention of a couple of things. GDPR and Safeguarding practice. Some of my suggestions assume you have permission to be in touch with children and families when they are not present at activities you are running, please make sure you abide by your church / organisation guidelines on your retention of personal data and what you have permission to do with it. Regarding safeguarding – at all times abide by your church policy on safeguarding children and vulnerable adults – in particular, if visiting homes you should have a “lone working” policy or similar guideline.
Follow this simple ABCD at all times, be A – Be Accountable for what you are doing – especially when doing something new; B – Have clear Boundaries; C – Think about the Contact environment and who else is present; D – lob your visits and activities in a share Diary.
Right then, here are seven things you could do ::
Give them a takeaway.
Is there something small that every child could take away as a memento of the evening? A book mark? A fridge magnet? Something they make during a craft session in the evening? Is there a way of finishing off the evening with something memorable that the kids won’t forget in a hurry – what ONE thing do you want them to leave knowing, thinking, doing? With so much going on in the evening itself this can get lost – but it could be the most significant thing – maybe one of SU’s small booklets that unpacks the meaning of Halloween . . .
Write a Postcard.
Writing anything with a pen seems to be a lost art with emails, texts, emojis, Facebook status updates and tweets . . . but, if you are a child, it remains a thrill to get something through the letter box written to YOU (not your parents). A postcard is great, because you can have a cool photo / front that relates to the Light Party night you have recently had . . . AND, everyone sees what has been written on the other side. Make it fun, make it memorable – make it personal, if you remember something about the child (so, great to involve your team in this), then add that (they might have had a really cool costume, got stuck in with a wacky game at the front or just looked like they were having stacks of fun. What this says to a child is, “Hey, they noticed me!”
Door Stop Visits.
You may well have addresses of all the children who attended so you had emergency contact details during the event. Much like a postcard, it is rare for children to have visitors! You don’t need to go in for a cup of tea and cake, a door stop hello is often sufficient just to say to the kids, “we loved having you at the Light Party” and saying to the parents, “Hi, we do a bunch of other stuff for children – check out this leaflet, my details are on the back if you want to know more.” Don’t do a heavy push, light touch contact is best. They have your details, the kids are thrilled you dropped by – you didn’t try to sell them anything or collect money for the church roof . . . as you are going round doing these doorstop visits – don’t forget to pray for open hearts and great conversation.
Enhance your weekly stuff.
Sometimes we pull out all the stops for special events, going for a bit of WOW is great – and it adds to the fun of an evening, but if our regular stuff is a bit tired by comparison, just how will it compare if children turn up for the first time after a light party expecting some of the same games, songs, action, and enthusiasm and discover . . . well, something else? What ONE thing that you did on the Light Party evening could you incorporate in your regular Sunday morning groups for children? How did the structure of the evening work – could you look at the shape of your Sunday morning stuff and tweak the timings? It doesn’t need to be something HUGE, you can’t have a full on Light Party every week, but trying something would also bring a bit of familiarity for any visitors who got their first taste of your church from attending the Light Party.
You may or may not be active in your local primary schools – taking assemblies, being a governor, going in occasionally for the “grill a Christian” session in RE – but, how can you improve your school engagement after the Light Party – maybe in preparation for the party you asked local schools if they could send out fliers via ParentMail or in school bags, maybe a school you haven’t really worked with before said yes! Maybe you had children attend who are at schools you aren’t involved with yet? Don’t let these little advances drop by the wayside, connect with the school afterwards to say thanks for putting our the fliers and ask if there is anything you could do for them? How could you be a blessing to this new school contact? Where children have come for the first time from a new school, maybe you could drop the school a letter or even pop in and say “Hi, some of your children came to our Light Party last week, if you ever need an outside visitor to do an assembly, let me know.”
This might be a big one, and – actually takes a bit of prep in advance so that you might be ready to go afterwards. Why not start something? It might be that you have wanted to get a mid week kids club going but have lacked the resources, the team, the money, the space . . . but, maybe there is such enthusiasm for the Light Party that the atmosphere changes in your church and it might be possible! Maybe the church hasn’t had the vision for it, but now they have seen the church full of kids you’ve got their backing! Regular is better than frequent – if frequent means exhausting hard pressed volunteers and you end up doing a flop of a thing once a week – maybe you could start something once a month? Stick with a dressing up theme and do a Christmas party? This gives you something very definite to invite children to that isn’t going to be ages away.
I know, I mentioned Christmas right at the beginning of this article – I didn’t mean to freak you out, but – seriously – it would be great to have Christmas publicity ready in early November! Meaning you can send stuff out (don’t overload people with things on the night of Light Party itself – see the “take away” ideas) a couple of weeks later, building on the momentum. This does mean you need to be fully involved in decisions about what Christmas publicity looks like and who it is aimed at – does it have children in mind? Is the publicity child friendly or just aimed at adults? What prominence is given to children’s and family activity over Christmas?