Although I don’t recall the shows we watched the summer after my tenth birthday, the memory of gathering with neighbors at a drive-in theater makes me smile. While our moms shelled butterbeans beside the car, we kids fished icy bottles of orange soda out of a cooler to wash down the salty, butter-soaked popcorn.
I recently enjoyed another drive-in experience.
“Hurry, Honey, so we can sit––I mean park––on the front row,” I said to my husband as we visited a local church’s drive-in service. We stayed in the car (social distancing, you know) and listened to praise music and the sermon via FM radio.
When we prepared to leave after the closing prayer, joy bounced around like kids on a trampoline as friends and strangers—adults and children—waved good-bye. Warm smiles from parking lot attendants spoke the final “Amen.”
At the drive-in service, the familiarity of our regular spot in the worship center and squirmy children did not matter. Gathering with the family of God did. Christian fellowship refueled our joy in the middle of the pandemic.
With park access, church activities, and summer programs prohibited or limited due the coronavirus, how can we engage children in wholesome activity and enjoy fellowship with other families?
A little creativity can add fun to summer days and help us stay connected. Our efforts will offer love and encouragement to those under our roof as well as others.
And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works,
not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some,
but encouraging one another.
· Hebrews 10:24-25 ·
IDEAS for Family “Gathering” Fun
Consider ideas that meet your community’s guidelines and your family’s health requirements. Enjoy activities as a family unit or with neighbors and friends. Why not print these suggestions and add your own?
› Bike parade
Encourage children to decorate their bikes and organize a bike parade on a safe street. Invite neighbors to wave or play patriotic music as the parade passes their house.
› Sidewalk chalk art show
Create sidewalk chalk art and write Bible verses at the end of the driveway. Designate a time for each family to draw part of a sidewalk mural.
› “Beach” read-a-thon
In a shady spot, spread out beach towels beside a kiddie pool. After water play, sit on the towels for a snack and story time.
› Lawn concert
If family members play a musical instrument, invite neighbors to a sunset lawn-chair concert.
› Movie night
Enjoy popcorn and movie night inside. Or invite neighbors and project a movie onto a sheet stretched over a swing set frame.
› Scripture art and memorization
Provide crayons and colored pencils for illustrating printed Bible verses. Glue the paper onto stiffer paper, tagboard, or light-weight cardboard. Cut the artwork into puzzle-shaped pieces. Children can recite the verse as they assemble the puzzle. Swap puzzles with others.
› Cookout capers
Plan a family or neighborhood cookout. Help children create menus, decorations, and an after-dinner puppet show.
› Mail call
Provide materials for children to create artwork and messages for relatives and residents of care facilities. Mail them in decorated envelopes and pray for each recipient.
› Virtual campout
Set up a campsite in the backyard. Roast marshmallows or make s’mores. Invite neighbors to do the same and use technology for shared stories around the fire.
› Art swap
Encourage children to create art projects and write notes to place on neighbor’s porches. Invite neighbors to do the same.
› Science fun
Find safe and simple science experiments to practice. Then share with another family via FaceTime or emailed videos and ask that family to conduct experiments the next week. Children can practice presentation skills while teaching others.
› Widen the circle
Include grandparents or other adults who may be lonely by using technology to include them in family fun. Send photos by mail for those who don’t have electronic devices.
Watching movies via the internet offers instant entertainment, but when I was young, sharing orange soda and popcorn with neighbors at the summer drive-in forged relationships and created happy memories. Drive-in church services, live-stream broadcasts viewed as a family, and opportunities to relax and laugh together offer opportunities to worship, fellowship, and create memories.
Family and neighborhood activities also allow us to teach biblical values to children and to share God’s love with others. In addition, we can foster peace in our corner of this troubled world by remembering,
Behold, how good and pleasant it is when brothers dwell in unity.
· Psalm 133:1 ·