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Calvin Christian Reformed Church in Holland, Mich. has found a way to bridge its school-year children’s ministry programs, GEMS and Cadets, with summertime Wow Wednesdays in order to keep more community kids connected to the church.

Dubbed the After School Special, a series of three puppet-making workshops in May whetted kids’ appetite for the dynamic summer program to come.

“We started Wow Wednesdays three years ago with the thought that kingdom work is all year round and found these programs also draw in non-churched or community kids as well,” said Randy Bouwer, the church’s outreach coordinator and music director.

Twenty children aged 5 to 12 came out for what Bouwer called “a big but fun mess,” working with three volunteer leaders and several helpful parents to create puppets to take home and enjoy.

“We are very fortunate to have volunteers for the outreach at Calvin, especially for a small church,” said Bouwer. “We try to make their work easy and fun.”

Calvin CRC’s Wow Wednesdays run from mid-June to mid-August. Thanks to a $3,000 grant from the deacons at Holland CRC, the 2016 program will include a Gaga pit (similar to dodgeball) and picnic tables to increase the outdoor presence.

About 40 percent of the congregation participate as volunteers serving a free dinner to more than 100 people each week. There’s also a 30-minute worship and lesson time followed by crafts, games, and sports. A local food company, Request Foods, donates the main course every week.

Bouwer said the combination of programming has been a blessing for church growth. “Our primary goal is to bring Christian values to children, but the fellowship, fun, and food has also drawn new families into our church.”

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