Since the fall of 2009, lively conversation, playtime, pizza picnics, giggles, prayer, screaming, worship, organized games, and a whole lot of running in the Friends Center gym have characterized what we call Fun Nights.
If you’ve been around NFC for a long time you may remember Kids Club—a weekly gathering of grade schoolers with super cool group games, Bible stories, and prizes for memorizing verses. Kids Club, along with Sunday school, was a staple of children’s ministry at Newberg Friends. Unfortunately, over the years, regular volunteers became more difficult to find. Children’s time and energy were stretched as the demands of homework, sports teams, and other extra-curricular commitments made attendance at Kids Club difficult to maintain. So when I became pastor of children and family ministries, I decided to lay down this worthy yet time-intensive ministry.
What arose in its place was a simple idea with a simple name: Fun Nights. We began with 3:4-5 Fun Night (for 3rd through 5th graders) and K-2 Fun Night (for kindergarten through 2nd graders). In November 2012 we added Pre-K Fun Night (for 3- through 5-year-olds, not yet in kindergarten). Now, roughly once per quarter, Fun Nights are offered for all three age groups. They are structured to be developmentally appropriate, to promote the study of biblical principles, and offer children a chance to simply have fun with adults, youth volunteers, and one another. Each Fun Night follows a basic format of free play, prayer and topical discussion, dinner, group games, and stories.
Unique to 3:4-5 Fun Night is a focus on missions. We’ve had our eyes, ears, and hearts opened through wonderful presenters from Equipo, NWYM, and YCEW. 3:4-5 Fun Night has allowed children to hear stories and learn about other cultures in person, through missionaries from Central America, Ireland, Rwanda, Uganda, and Kenya. We’ve zeroed in on the importance of clean water and explored what it means to live in poverty. Our 3rd through 5th graders have wrestled with the concept of “enough” and what are the most effective ways to share the good news. 3:4-5 Fun Night encourages children to explore what it means to be a missionary in their current community and abroad. This month high school student John Hampton and his friends from C.S. Lewis Academy will share what they recently experienced during a short-term mission trip to Belize.
Fun Nights for all age groups continue to be a joy-filled way to interact with the children of NFC and the friends, neighbors, cousins, and classmates, they bring. Volunteer needs are few, but high-energy helpers at any of our Fun Nights are always welcome. At the end of the evening, you might leave with a headache from the noise, but I expect you’ll also have a heart warmed by the mutual love, learning, and laughter.