You’re gearing up for another school year. Teachers everywhere are straightening up their classrooms, taking inventory and stocking up on supplies. They know that a few hours and labeled containers lead to a smoother transition and deeper learning. So, they take time up front to create a system that’s simple, organized and easy to maintain, even when things get a little chaotic. Some of their tricks apply to children’s ministry too. Here are some things to try to prep, get ahead and find help.
1. Create a Vault

  • Take some time to organize and evaluate what you already have. Sort and get all your supplies in one basic area.
  • If you’re a mobile ministry, don’t stop reading! You can use a closet or your garage and later you’ll see how you can bring just what you need and some back-up supplies with you to the place you rent.
  • Labeling, even taking and printing out pictures of what’s inside, with the amount, saves a lot of frustration later on. It also helps different people to be able to use the same space, find things easily and also put them back.

2. Make-It-Your-Own
Download a month of curriculum, then pick and choose activities based on your ministry’s needs. You can use the Word version to literally cut and paste, so that you print just what you want.

  • How do your kids learn best?
  • How much space do you have?
  • How much time do you have (this will help you decide the number/type of activities)?
  • How much money do you have for supplies (that you don’t already have in your vault or that you can’t borrow or make)?

3. Monthly Boxes

  • Take a banker cardboard box or large plastic container and label it with the month.
  • Next copy the instructions for the activities you chose—highlighting important information like the age group and week.
  • Gather what you already have in the vault for each activity, bagging and labeling as you go.
  • Make a shopping/borrow list for any remaining needed supplies.
  • Send out emails. Search for best deals and buy what else you need.

*This is a great volunteer role—you know people who are great at shopping and organizing, ask if they’d be willing to help with this each month. Provide them with some fun snacks or food, even a partner, so it’s fun for them too!
4. Weekly Kits

  • Buy some smaller, clear shoebox-size plastic boxes.
  • Make sure you have everything gathered in one place for each activity, especially the instructions.
  • Prep each activity and put it back in the box.

*This is another awesome opportunity to get people involved. The more hands you have helping to prep, the faster and easier it will all get done. Put these boxes in a central spot, where people can check out one or more of these boxes and bring it back with that activity all ready to go. Warning: this is addicting—you may have trouble finding enough for people to do! You could also have a prep morning where you gather up a Small Group to hang out and chat as they work. They could even bring young kids, letting them play and watch videos. You don’t have to do it all—find others to join you.
5. The Kids are Coming

  • Once each activity is prepped, you can take it another step and divide it up even smaller into individual kits (backpacks, shower caddies, plastic containers with handles, reusable grocery sacks) for each Small Group. You can label these by room/place, the leader’s name, group name/color, age, etc.
  • It can be waiting for them in their assigned spot on Sunday morning or they can pick up their bag in the same central spot each week.
  • Or some churches set up stations and put the weekly activity boxes in each spot, having Small Groups count out just what they need, and take turns. It’s up to what you think will work best!

*Another job you could ask for help with is getting all these kits to the right spot before leaders and kids arrive, as well as gathering up the kits after the service and dividing up what’s leftover to be put back in the Vault and used another time, trash to be thrown away, and items that need to be recycled. Note: Some churches save extra activity supplies, ready to be used, for other children’s groups or services that meet at the church later in the week.
6. Back Up Cart
Like a first aid kit, find a wheeled cart with drawers that you can label and always have stocked with general supplies (like washable markers, glue sticks, wet wipes, pens, and blank paper) as well as extras for each of this week’s activities, in case craft sticks break or they’re short a pipe cleaner. Planning ahead helps you feel prepared and it saves your feet—walking back and forth to the vault.
How do you get ready for a new year, a new month, next week? What else have you found saves time and money when prepping supplies? We’d love to hear—comment below.